BOONE, N.C. (A-STATE) – The Arkansas State Red Wolves football team became bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season with a 40-27 victory over Appalachian State in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPNU Thursday evening at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
A-State (6-3, 5-0 Sun Belt) outscored the Mountaineers 23-6 in the second half after trailing throughout much of the first half. Despite getting outgained in the first half, the Red Wolves finished the night with 517 yards of total offense. Michael Gordon rushed for 136 yards on 17 attempts and scored once to lead a Red Wolves rushing attack that accumulated 309 yards on the ground. Dijon Paschal had four receptions for 117 yards and Fredi Knighten went 14-of-25 for 208 yards and one touchdown.
"This was fun and I'm proud of the guys," A-State head football coach Blake Anderson said. "I like where our kids are at and we're in great shape. We always fight until the end and we play 60 minutes every week. We're going to find a way to keep getting it done for the rest of the season."
After compiling just 125 yards of total offense in the first half, A-State gained 294 yards and outscored Appalachian State (7-2, 4-1 SBC) 17-0 in the third quarter to build a 34-21 lead by the end of the period.
A-State scored on its first three drives of the quarter, including back-to-back scoring runs by Johnston White and Gordon, while J.D. Houston added a field goal to round out the scoring.
The Red Wolves opened the second half with a six-play, 75-yard drive that was capped with a 26 yard rush by White to give Arkansas State its first lead of the night at 24-21. The scoring run was the 11th of the season for White, which leads all A-State rushers.
After forcing the Mountaineers to punt on their opening drive of the half, the Red Wolves pushed the tempo and needed just two plays to push the advantage to 10 points. Gordon took a handoff 73 yards to the end zone for to put A-State ahead 31-21 with just over 10 minutes to go in the quarter.
J.D. Houston converted his second field goal of the night on a 32-yard field goal near the end of the quarter to give the Red Wolves a 34-21 advantage. A-State finished the third quarter with 294 yards of total offense and held the Mountaineers to 60.
J.D. Houston added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 40-21. His 23-yard make with 6:26 left remaining made it a three-possession lead for Arkansas State.
A-State and the Mountaineers battled through a first half that featured three turnovers, a fake punt, a defensive score and 430 yards of combined total offense, but the Red Wolves trailed 21-17 at the break thanks to three touchdown passes by Taylor Lamb.
The Red Wolves trailed 14-7 midway through the first quarter and the momentum was in Appalachian State's favor after a fake punt kept the scoring drive alive for the Mountaineers and led to a 29 yard touchdown pass by Lamb to break the 7-7 tie, but that changed when the A-State defense forced it's second of three turnovers in the half.
Xavier Woodson-Luster sacked Lamb and stripped the ball, which was scooped up by Chris Stone and returned 19 yards to tie the game at 14-14. The defensive touchdown was the fifth of the season for A-State and leads all FBS teams in the category.
The Mountaineers answered back with an 8-play, 72-yard drive and retook the lead on a 24-yard touchdown pass by Lamb to take a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter. A-State slowed the pace down on its next drive and went 72 yards in 13 plays that ended with a 25-yard field goal by J.D. Houston to pull A-State within 21-17 with under five minutes to go until halftime.
Appalachian State opened the game with a scoring drive that covered 72 yards in 2:15 and was capped with a 12-yard pass from Lamb to Malachi Jones to take the upper hand. A-State answered when Khari Lain recovered a Marcus Cox fumble inside the 8-yard line and the offense wasted no time in converting the turnover into points when Knighten found Tres Houston on the first play to tie the score at 7-7 with 8:33 to go in the opening quarter.
Arkansas State is bowl eligible for the fifth time in as many season seasons and for the eighth time in the last 11 years. The Red Wolves are also 5-0 in the league for the first time since 2011.
A-State returns to the field Saturday, Nov. 14 at Louisiana-Monroe. The game is set to kickoff at 2 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.