From Arkansas State University
ON TAP: The Arkansas State football team returns to the road this week, facing preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite Florida International in a Thursday night game set to be televised by ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. (CT). Every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area, and the live radio broadcast can be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic Web site (AStateRedWolves.com).
THE PRINCIPALS: Arkansas State had its eight-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak snapped last week with a 26-13 setback at Liberty Bank Stadium against Western Kentucky, but it's four-game road winning streak against league opponents remains intact. FIU is also looking for its first conference victory after falling 48-20 at Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday. The game features the top two picks in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll to win the league.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
HEAD COACH GUS MALZAHN: Gus Malzahn was named the Red Wolves' 28th head football coach at Dec. 14 press conference, bringing him back to his home state after most recently enjoying highly successful stints as a top assistant coach at three NCAA FBS universities that garnered him national acclaim. A name highly recognized throughout Arkansas and the nation, Malzahn comes to Arkansas State after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn for the past three seasons. A native of Fort Smith, Malzahn was named the winner of the 2010 Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate assistant coach.
COACHING RECOGNITION: First-year Arkansas State Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn was recognized as one of the top hires in the nation this offseason, named as the No. 4 best hire and No. 2 most intriguing hire in the nation by CBSSports.com. He was also one of two head coaches in the nation to receive a grade of A+ among new hires for the 2012 season by the Sporting News. Bleacher Report's "Over/Under Victories" for every new head coach places A-State at nine victories, one of the tops listed in the report.
HALL OF HONOR: A-State head coach Gus Malzahn will be one of seven inductees into Henderson State University's Reddie Hall of Honor on Saturday (Oct. 6). The event will take place at the Garrison Center Day Gym on the Henderson campus with festivities beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday. A two-year letterman, Malzahn averaged 35.3 yards per punt his first year at Henderson and 37.7 yards his senior year, including a long of 64 yards. He also caught 24 passes for 288 yards for an average of 12.0 yards per catch. He earned All-AIC Honorable Mention honors in 1989.
ASU ANNOUNCES FOOTBALL FACILITY PROJECT: Arkansas State University announced a $22 million football facility project, including a two-level football operations building and 76,000 square-foot indoor practice facility in ASU Stadium's north end zone, at an 11 a.m. press conference held Sept. 6 at the current ASU Football Facility . . . The new football operations building's first floor will house A-State's locker room, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning and sports medicine centers, a players lounge and equipment room. The second floor will feature coaching and administrative offices, team meeting rooms, a history and heritage showroom and a team film room with theatre seating. The indoor practice facility will run east and west and be connected to the north side of the operations building . . . The facility will have a brick exterior and feature an outdoor plaza facing the field on the building's second level. The interior will have a strong Red Wolves' theme with black and red dominating the esthetic appearance.
IT'S ALL IN THE NAME: In recognition of a $5 million contribution by Liberty Bank, the ASU Board of Trustees announced last Sept. 8 that Liberty Bank Stadium is the new name of the football stadium at Arkansas State University. The naming rights to the stadium are for the next 15 years, as announced at the newly-named facility just prior to kickoff of the Red Wolves' home football game against the Memphis Tigers.
A-STATE NAMES NEW AD: Arkansas State University Chancellor Dr. Tim Hudson announced Sept. 19 that Terry Mohajir, a 20-year veteran leader in collegiate athletics with a diverse background as an administrator, coach, student-athlete and city government participant, has been named A-State's 11th Director of Athletics. An Arkansas State University alumnus, Mohajir's (pronounced MO-HA-JUR) career path went through three other NCAA Division I institutions, including the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Florida Atlantic and Kansas, before leading him back to his alma mater. The Overland Park, Kansas native has been involved with major fundraising campaigns at multiple universities, while also overseeing corporate sales, marketing promotions and ticket sales. He most recently served the last 13 months as Kansas' Senior Associate Director of Athletics and Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to his time with the Jayhawks, he spent a seven-year stint as Florida Atlantic's Senior Associate Director of Athletics for External Relations from 2004-11 after working at UMKC from 1997-2004 as its Assistant Director of Athletics for External Relations.
98th SEASON UNDER WAY: Arkansas State kicked off its 98th season of football Sept. 1 at Oregon. ASU now holds a 418-457-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and has played in eight bowl games. A-State did not field a football team from 1942-44 due to World War II. ASU also didn't have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.
THE ASU-FIU SERIES: Arkansas State holds a 5-2 on-field record against Florida International in a series that dates back to just the 2005 season. A-State won the first three meetings, but the two teams have split the last four meetings with the home team picking up a victory in each of those outings. Both FIU wins in the all-time series have been by a touchdown or less, while four of A-State's five victories have been by at least 17 points. The Red Wolves picked up a 34-16 win over FIU last season in Jonesboro, but haven't won in Miami since the 2006 campaign.
ASU-FIU ALL-TIME SERIES: ASU leads 5-2
ASU at FIU: FIU leads 2-1
FIU at ASU: ASU leads 4-0
2005: Florida International at A-State (W, 66-24)
2006: A-State at Florida International (W, 31-6)
2007: Florida International at A-State (W, 27-24)
2008: A-State at Florida International (L, 21-22)
2009: Florida International at A-State (W, 27-10)
2010: A-State at Florida International (L, 24-31)
2011: FIorida International at A-State (W, 34-16)
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: A-State is 71-64-1 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. Since the league's inaugural football season in 2001, the Red Wolves hold a 42-37 on-field record against all opponents that have been a member of the league. Against current members of the conference, ASU is 37-33 since 2001. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 19. With the exception of first-year member South Alabama, the Red Wolves have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : Extend the Red Wolves conference winning streak in road games to five . . . Give the Red Wolves their first victory against FIU in Miami since 2006 . . . Mark the third consecutive year A-State defeated the preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite . . . Improve ASU's record in midweek games to 8-3 since joining the Sun Belt . . . Extend the Red Wolves winning streak to three in midweek games.
MIDWEEK MONSTERS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games since joining the Sun Belt Conference. Since the 2001 campaign, the Red Wolves hold a 7-3 record in all midweek games and a 5-2 mark when playing on Thursday. ASU has won its last two midweek games, defeating FIU 34-16 on a Tuesday last season and Middle Tennessee 51-24 on a Tuesday in 2010.
BOUNCING BACK: The Red Wolves have not lost back-to-back regular-season games since suffering three consecutive setbacks to end the 2010 campaign. ASU's only two regular-season losses last year were both followed by victories, and ASU's first two setbacks this year were also followed by victories. Not only that, ASU won three of its four games following those losses by at least 29 points.
SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State claimed its first ever outright Sun Belt Conference championship in 2011. Including last season, ASU has won eight conference championships all-time. ASU won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). ASU also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense 28 of its last 30 games. ASU's 12-game streak with over 300 yards total offense came to an end just two games shy of the school record against Nebraska earlier this season.
A NEW START: Arkansas State has 12 players that started their first career games at the school this season, which ranks tied for the ninth most in the nation with East Carolina, Penn State, Tulane and TCU. Northern Illinois, Nevada and Oklahoma State have started the sixth most with 13, while Air Force and Hawaii lead the nation with 18 first-time starters this year. Players with their first career start at ASU this season include David Oku (RB), Rocky Hayes (RB/WR), Aaron Williams (OL), Steven Haunga (OL), Bryce Giddens (OL), Alan Wright (OL), Ronnell Wright (DL), Shervarius Jackson (DE), Chris Stone (DE), Eddie Porter (LB/DE), Andrew Tryon (CB) and Cole Lorigan (S).
ON A ROLL: Senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer has recorded at least one reception in his last 34 games played, ranking as the second most in the NCAA among all players. Duke's Conner Vernon leads the nation with a catch in 40 straight games, while Baylor's Lanear Sampson is tied with Stockemer for the second longest streak. West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Central Michigan's Cody Wilson are next in line with 33.
AT LEAST SIX: Redshirt freshman receiver J.D. McKissic recorded at least six receptions in ASU's last four games, including a career-high eight against Memphis, Nebraska and Western Kentucky. He now has a team-high 34 catches to place him second in the Sun Belt Conference and tied for 18th in the nation in receptions. McKissic also has a team-best 328 receiving yards, which ranks sixth in the SBC.
HERALDED PEFORMANCE: Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold recorded 11 tackles against both Oregon and Nebraska, giving him two games this year and five for his career with double-figure stops. He now has a team-high 44 tackles, placing him tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference and tied for 49th in the nation in tackles. Herrold has also recorded at least a partial tackle for loss in the Red Wolves' last four games.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior defensive end Tim Starson recorded a career-high three tackles for loss against Alcorn State, and is now ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference with 1.3 per game. He has recorded at least a partial tackle for loss in ASU's last four games. He had three career tackles for loss entering his senior season this year.
KICK IT INTO GEAR: Junior kicker Brian Davis connected on two field goals last time out, making him 8-of-10 on the season. He has made his last five consecutive field goals dating back to the Memphis game. Davis has made multiple field goals in four of ASU's five games this season and nine times during his career. He became ASU's fifth all-time leader in points by kicking during the WKU game, recording seven to give him 172 for his career.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin has tossed at least one touchdown in 29 of his last 33 games dating back to his freshman season. Aplin has also thrown for at least 200 yards 25 times in his career and all 25 have come over ASU's last 32 games. Additionally, he has 15 career games with over 300 yards total offense, including five of the last eight.
ACTIVE APLIN: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin is ranked among the top active players in the NCAA in several career statistics, including:
3rd, career total offense yards (10,092)
6th, career passing yards (8,581)
6th, career completions (737)
7th, career TD responsible for (77)
9th, career touchdown passes (50)
18th, career rushing touchdowns (26)
TWO MORE SCHOOL RECORDS: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin has set five new school records this year, giving him 20 combined game, season and career records at ASU . . . His single-game records include most plays, total offense, most average yards per game, passes attempted, completion percentage and completions . . . His single-season records include most plays, total offense, passes attempted, completions, touchdown passes, highest completion percentage and most passing yards per game . . . His career records include total offense, most average yards per game, completions, pass attempts, highest completion percentage, touchdown passes and most passing yards per game.
THAT'S OFFENSIVE: A-State's 634 yards of total offense against Alcorn State was the seventh most in school history and marked the second time this year the Red Wolves have recorded over 600 yards. They also piled up 619 yards against Memphis, which were the most against an FBS opponent since recording a school-record 681 against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007. ASU has now posted at least 500 yards total offense in three of its first five games and at least 30 first downs in two.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: With 34 (vs. Oregon), 33 (vs. Memphis) and 56 (vs. Alcorn State) points scored in three of its first five games this season, A-State has now posted at least 30 points in 11 of its last 16 regular-season games dating back to last season. The Red Wolves scored 30 or more points in eight games during the 2011 season, the most since 1951 when it hit the total 10 times.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: With its 56-0 win over Alcorn State, ASU recorded its first shutout since defeating Mississippi Valley State 61-0 in its 2009 season opener. ASU limited Alcorn State to just 2.2 yards per play, which tied the fifth lowest average for a game in Sun Belt Conference history. ASU's defense allowed just 130 yards, which is the fewest since giving up 69 to Mississippi Valley State in 2009 as well. The Red Wolves also held Memphis under 300 yards total offense, limiting the Tigers to 293 yards for the fewest by an ASU opponent since FAU recorded 281 last season.
REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: Sophomore running back Rod Smith broke 100 yards rushing for the first time of his career last game, finishing the Alcorn State contest with a career-high 104 yards. He is the second ASU player to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, joining David Oku (111 yards vs. Memphis). A-State had a running back record over 100 yards in a rushing in a game only once all of last season.
ATTENDANCE FIGURES: The Liberty Bank crowd of 25,160 for the ASU-WKU game made it the largest to ever watch A-State player a conference game in Jonesboro. The next largest was 24,256 when ASU hosted Middle Tennessee in 2008 . . . ASU's first three home games all drew a crowd of over 20,000, marking the first time in school history to play three consecutive home games with 20,000-plus in attendance. Not only that, 2011 and 2008 are the only other years that ASU had a home crowd of over 20,000 in three games over the course of an entire season.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 6-0 home record last season, Arkansas State secured its seventh consecutive winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. ASU is now 33-8 at ASU Stadium since the 2005 season. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Liberty Bank Stadium is 125-71-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's six home wins last season were its most since 1985.
FCS WINNING STREAK EXTENDED: Arkansas State extended its winning streak against FCS opponents to eight games with a 56-0 win over Alcorn State earlier this season. The Red Wolves have won those eight games by a combined 426-60 score. ASU improved to 19-4 against FCS opponents since moving to the FBS in 1992.
SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Ryan Aplin has been named as one of just 30 candidates from across the nation for the 2012 Senior CLASS Award, annually recognizing an NCAA FBS senior with notable achievements in areas of community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the prestigious Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
CFPA RECOGNIZES APLIN: The College Football Performance Awards recognized senior Ryan Aplin as an Honorable Mention National Quarterback of the Week following A-State's victory over Alcorn State. Aplin only played in the first half, leading ASU to 42-0 lead at the break with 198 yards passing, another 24 rushing and three touchdown passes. Aplin completed 12-of-13 pass attempts for a school-record .923 completion percentage. His three touchdown tosses gave him 50 for his career, making him ASU's all-time leader in the stat and one of just four players in Sun Belt history to record at least 50 touchdown passes. Aplin ended the game with 222 yards of total offense.
SULLIVENT HONORED: Senior punter Neely Sullivent was announced as a College Football Performance Awards national honorable mention punter of the week following the Nebraska game. Sullivent averaged 48 yards per punt against the Huskers, almost a full 10 yards more than his season average of 38.4 entering the game. He recorded his second punt of the season to travel over 50 yards and also posted his first punt inside the 20. Sullivent raised has season average to 41.8 yards per punt to rank him third in the Sun Belt Conference.
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named Sun Belt Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and one of four A-State players named to the all-conference team at the league's Media Day in New Orleans. Aplin, senior wideout Josh Jarboe, senior offensive lineman Zack McKnight and senior defensive back Don Jones were all named to the Preseason All-SBC Team.
RED WOLVES TABBED SECOND IN PRESEASON SBC POLL: The Red Wolves were picked second in the preseason coaches poll announced as part of the league's annual Media Day. Arkansas State received 85 points and two first place votes, just behind Florida International, which received five first place votes and 92 points to earn the nod as the preseason favorite in the league race. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference Championship a year ago after posting a perfect 8-0 record in league play during the 2011 season. Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky and Troy rounded out the top five in the poll, and FIU defensive lineman Tourek Williams was named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
HIGHLY TOUTED RECRUITING CLASS: With a Parade All-American, Under Armour All-American, NJCAA All-American, 23 players that earned either junior college all-conference or high school all-state recognition and 18 players rated at least three stars by one or more of the major recruiting sources, the 2012 ASU signing class could be considered one of the best in the history of the ASU football program. Arkansas State had the top-rated class in the Sun Belt Conference by Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports.com.
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS: A-State returns five 2011 All-Sun Belt Conference players this season, including the league's Player of the Year in senior quarterback Ryan Aplin. Aplin was a first-team selection and was joined by second-team choices Josh Jarboe (Sr., WR) and Nathan Herrold (Sr., LB). Returning as honorable mention choices are senior wideout Taylor Stockemer and senior punter Neely Sullivent.
GODADDY.COM BOWL: Arkansas State accepted an official invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl last season following its victory over Middle Tennessee on Nov. 19, placing the Red Wolves in a bowl game for the first time since 2005 when they played Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl in Lafayette, La. ASU was bowl eligible for the first time since 2008, but for the fourth time over the last seven seasons. ASU reached bowl eligibility after just eight games, making last year the earliest ASU had ever been bowl eligible as an FBS member (since 1992).
SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State claimed its first ever outright Sun Belt Conference championship last season. Including 2011, Arkansas State has won eight conference championships all-time. ASU won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). ASU also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference championship, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
IN THE POLLS: Arkansas State received as many as 18 votes in the AP Top 25 Poll and 13 votes in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll, while also ranking as high as No. 35 in the BCS and reaching No. 30 in the CBSSports.com 120 rankings during the season.
SENIOR BOWL WATCHLIST: ASU has two players on the inaugural Senior Bowl Watch list. Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin and senior wide out Josh Jarboe were added to the watch list on August 24.
APLIN ON NUMEROUS WATCH LISTS: An All-America and Heisman candidate, senior quarterback Ryan Aplin has garnered a significant amount of national attention this preseason as he is listed on the Walter Camp Player of the Year Watch List, Davey O'Brien Award Watch List, Johnny Unitas Award Watch List and the Manning Award Watch List. Video, action photos and biographical information for Aplin are all available on a Facebook Page, maintained by the ASU Sports Information Department, called "Ryan Aplin All-America and Heisman Campaign." Fans and media will be able to follow Aplin's 2012 season on the page, where updates will be posted throughout fall camp and the upcoming season.
ATHLON'S PRESEASON HONORS: The Red Wolves had six players named to Athlon's preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team, including senior quarterback Ryan Aplin (first team), senior wide receiver Josh Jarboe (first team), senior offensive lineman Zack McKnight (first team), senior linebacker Nathan Herrold (first team), junior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers (second team) and senior safety Don Jones (second team).
PHIL STEELE'S PRESEASON HONORS: Phil Steele's preseason All-Sun Belt team featured 12 A-State players, including first team selections Ryan Aplin (Sr., QB) and Josh Jarboe (Sr., WR). ASU's 12 selections tied the fourth most in the league with Troy. Earning a spot on the second team were Taylor Stockemer (Sr., WR), Zack McKnight (Sr., OL), Nathan Herrold (Sr., LB), Chaz Scales (Sr., DB) and Andrew Tryon (So., DB), who made the team as a kick returner. The Red Wolves' third-team choices were Frankie Jackson (So., RB), Ryan Carrethers (Jr., DL) and Brian Davis (Jr., K), while Ishamail Hayes (Jr., DE) and Qushaun Lee (So., LB) were fourth-team selections.
COLLEGE SPORTS MADNESS PRESEASON HONORS: CollegeSportsMadness.com has announced its preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team, which includes Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Aplin (Sr., QB). Along with Aplin, Zack McKnight (Sr., OL) was named a first team choice. Second team selections included Josh Jarboe (Sr., WR), Brian Davis (Jr., K) and Nathan Herrold (Sr., LB). A-State's third team picks included Taylor Stockemer (Sr., WR), Andrew Tryon (So., DB) as a kick returner and Chaz Scales (Sr., DB).
BLUE RIBBON PRESEASON HONORS: The Blue Ribbon Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team included Arkansas State players Josh Jarboe (Sr., WR), Ryan Aplin (Sr., QB) and Nathan Herrold (Sr., LB).