JONESBORO, AR (ASU) – No. 21 Missouri outscored Arkansas State 17-3 in the second half to come away with a 27-20 defeat of the Red Wolves in front of 29,143 fans at newly renovated Centennial Bank Stadium Saturday.
“We played hard, but just didn’t make enough plays when it counted, especially in the third and fourth quarter, to get the win,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “At the same time, we had a lot of improvement from a week ago and gave phenomenal effort, especially forcing turnovers defensively. We lost to a good football team, but there are definitely some positives to take away from it.”
Both teams had three turnovers in the contest, but two second-half interceptions hurt A-State. Red Wolves starting quarterback Fredi Knighten finished 11-of-23 for 97 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Redshirt-freshman quarterback James Tabary was 3-for-7 for 27 yards and two interceptions playing late in the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter.
The Red Wolves were held to 217 total yards with Michael Gordon leading the team with 67 yards on 17 rushes. J.D. McKissic caught eight passes for 82 yards and returned three kicks for 105 yards to finish with 187 all-purpose yards. Tres Houston had three catches for 23 yards and caught two touchdown passes.
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk completed 16-of-36 passes and threw for three touchdowns, but was intercepted by Bo Sentimore and Rocky Hayes in the game. Mauk threw for 148 yards and rushed for 75 yards and the Tigers finished the night with 282 total yards. Back-up Drew Lock attempted one pass and was intercepted by Chris Humes in the second quarter.
The Red Wolves received the opening kickoff and were able to advance past midfield into Missouri territory, but the Tigers defense held and forced an A-State punt. Knighten completed a 19-yard pass to Tyler Trosin on third-and-14 to move the chains and set up A-State at the Missouri 47-yard line. The Tigers dropped Knighten for a loss of six yards after an incompletion and forced a punt to takeover on their own 27-yard line.
Missouri used 12 plays and moved 60 yards to convert a 30-yard field goal to lead 3-0 early in the first quarter. The Tigers converted on third-and-8 early in the drive, but the Red Wolves held on third-and-8 with Missouri inside the red zone to force the field goal.
A-State punter Luke Ferguson pinned Missouri deep to start the second quarter and the Red Wolves took advantage with a forced turnover. On 3rd-and-11 from the 10-yard line, Bo Sentimore intercepted Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk at the A-State 48-yard line. The Red Wolves junior safety grabbed the interception and returned it 45 yards to set up A-State at the Missouri 7-yard line with a golden chance to take the lead.
Knighten found wide receiver Tres Houston in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown and A-State grabbed a 7-3 lead with 12:18 left in the first half. Knighten fed the ball to the back right shoulder of Houston and the senior wide out made the one-handed catch for his fifth career touchdown reception.
The Red Wolves defense intercepted Mauk again on the ensuing drive as Chris Humes stepped in front of the pass at the A-State 40-yard line and returned it 19 yards. Taking over at the Missouri 41-yard line, the Red Wolves were forced to convert a 4th-and-inches before Missouri held A-State to a field goal. Junior kicker J.D. Houston converted his first career field goal with the 20-yard field goal.
Missouri regained momentum by picking off Knighten at the Red Wolves 46-yard line and a 35-yard return set up the Tigers to tie the game. Mauk used a pump fake and found Nate Brown open for the 11-yard touchdown on the first play to tie the game at 10-10 with 4:08 left in the half.
The Red Wolves stole the momentum back with a 12 play, 63-yard touchdown drive to lead 17-10 with just eight seconds left in the first half. A-State converted three times on third down and the meticulous drive was capped off by the second touchdown reception by Houston. Knighten found Houston at the back of the end zone and Houston was able to get his left foot down for the touchdown.
The Tigers pushed A-State inside their own 10-yard line early in the second half and a big loss on second down put the ball at the 1-yard line. The Red Wolves were forced to punt from their own 6-yard line and Ferguson booted a 55-yard punt to set up Missouri at their own 38-yard line.
Missouri used six plays and a big reception to knot the score at 17-17 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter. Mauk was 4-for-5 on the drive and completed a 32-yard strike to Wesley Leftwich for his second touchdown pass of the night.
The Tigers regained the lead at 24-17 with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter with Mauk hitting Sean Culkin for a 21-yard completion. Missouri forced the Red Wolves to go three-and-out and started the scoring drive at their own 35-yard line. A-State was whistled for pass interference on 2nd-and-13 and the Tigers used the penalty to get out of third-and-long. A 27-yard rush by Ish Witter pushed Missouri into A-State territory and two plays later the Tigers had the 24-17 advantage.
The Red Wolves picked off their third pass of the night to start a drive at the Missouri 28-yard line. Rocky Hayes deflected Mauk’s pass on the right side and dove to hold on for the interception. A-State was unable to move inside the red zone after the turnover, but Drew White converted the 40-yard field goal to cut the Missouri lead to 24-20 with 11:30 left in regulation.
The A-State defense forced Missouri to go three-and-out after the field goal, but an interception thrown by James Tabary put the Tigers on the A-State 39-yard line with 9:24 remaining. The Red Wolves forced third-and-13, but Mauk escaped for a 19-yard rush to move the chains. Missouri was unable to convert another first down as the Red Wolves forced a 41-yard field goal attempted that was converted by Andrew Baggett to make it 27-20 with 7:10 remaining.
The Red Wolves had two more opportunities to tie the game, but the Tigers held off any chances of forcing overtime. A-State moved inside Missouri territory, but three consecutive plays resulted in lost yardage forcing a punt. A-State took over on their own 11-yard line after getting the defense off the field with 1:27 remaining, but the third interception thrown of the night resulted in Missouri taking a knee and ending the game.
A-State returns to Centennial Bank Stadium to host Missouri State at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19.