Jonesboro (ASU) — The Arkansas State defense forced seven turnovers, and the Red Wolves (4-5, 4-2) offense churned out a season-high 493 yards in a 51-24 win over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-5, 2-2) Tuesday night in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at ASU Stadium that was nationally televised by ESPN2.
Linebacker Demario Davis intercepted a pair of passes, both of which led to ASU touchdowns, and defensive back Kelcie McCray added 10 tackles and a pickoff to lead the Arkansas State defense. The Red Wolves offense was powered by 256 total yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Ryan Aplin, 138 receiving yards and a touchdown from wide receiver Dwayne Frampton and 104 rushing yards and a touchdown from running back Derek Lawson. Aplin completed 16-of-27 passes for 245 yards, and running back Jermaine Robertson added 79 yards and two touchdowns to the ASU offensive totals.
"I'm certainly very proud of our football team," said ASU head coach Steve Roberts. "It was a great night for Arkansas State University and a great night for our program. I'm very proud of the effort that went into this, the way our kids prepared and the way they took that to the field. I thought we played well in all phases of the game. Offensively, we moved the football every time we got it. We only punted one time during the course of the game and I thought we had some guys up front that really paved the way for a lot of great things to happen, both running the football and throwing the football."
"The defense had a heck of a night flying around and playing great football," added Roberts. "We created 7 turnovers and I thought we held them in check for the majority of the night."
Arkansas State jumped out to a 13-0 lead early in the game, getting an interception from Davis on the first MTSU possession to set up the first ASU touchdown. Davis picked off Blue Raider quarterback Dwight Dasher at the Middle Tennessee 31 and returned it 10 yards. Four plays later, Aplin put the Red Wolves on the board with a four-yard touchdown run. Middle Tennessee's Emmanuel Perez blocked the extra point, leaving Arkansas State with a 6-0 advantage less than three minutes into the contest.
The Red Wolves went 71 yards in just five plays on their next possession, taking a 13-0 lead when running back Jermaine Robertson scored on a seven-yard run, and kicker Bobby Zalud added the extra point, but the Blue Raiders answered with 10 straight points before the first quarter came to a close.
Middle Tennessee kicker Alan Gendreau booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Blue Raiders on the board with 4:27 remaining in the first quarter, and when Arkansas State failed to field the ball on the ensuing kickoff, MTSU recovered at the ASU 39. Running back Benjamin Cunningham wrapped up the Blue Raider possession with a four-yard touchdown run that cut the A-State lead to 13-10 with 52 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Arkansas State countered with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Aplin to wideout Taylor Stockemer on the first play of the second quarter to stretch the ASU lead to 20-10, but a 29-yard scamper from Dasher with 9:24 remaining in the half pulled MTSU back within three at 20-17.
Arkansas State's Brian Davis pushed the Red Wolves' lead to six when he knocked through a 22-yard field goal with 13 seconds to play in the half, giving ASU a 23-17 lead at the break.
Demario Davis picked off his second pass of the night when he intercepted Dasher on MTSU's first possession of the second half, setting up another Red Wolves touchdown when he gave ASU the ball at the Blue Raider 33. The Red Wolves needed just one play to reach the end zone, getting the touchdown when quarterback Phillip Butterfield found Frampton down the right sideline. Brian Davis added the extra point for the 30-17 ASU lead at the 9:24 mark of the third quarter.
The Red Wolves defense forced another turnover later in the quarter when defensive tackle Bryan Hall forced a fumble from MTSU receiver Malcolm Beyah at the Arkansas State 25, and the A-State offense cashed in again. The Red Wolves drove 72 yards in eight plays and stretched their lead to 37-17 when Aplin passed to tight end Jeff Blake from five yards out with 2:24 to go in the third.
An interception by ASU defensive back Darryl Feemster set up a 17-yard touchdown run from running back Derek Lawson, extending the A-State lead to 44-17. Middle Tennessee's final touchdown came on a 14-yard pass from Dasher to wide receiver Garrett Andrews, and Robertson scored on a six-yard run for ASU with 4:48 remaining to set the final score at 51-24.