MONROE, LA (astateredwolves.com) – The Arkansas State football squad scored 38 unanswered points and the defense shut out ULM in the second half as Fredi Knighten was responsible for six touchdowns in the Red Wolves’ 59-21 victory over the Warhawks Saturday afternoon at Malone Stadium in Monroe, La.
The score was tied 21-21 after a ULM 85-yard touchdown run by Ben Luckett, but A-State responded with a 53-yard touchdown pass from Fredi Knighten to Chris Murray, to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive to make the score 28-21 with 2:23 remaining in the second quarter. During the drive J.D. McKissic caught a 12-yard pass that gave him 2,740 receiving yards in his career, a new school record that broke Lennie Johnson’s record of 2,730 yards from 1995-98.
The Red Wolves’ defensive unit forced a three-and-out by ULM and the offense marched nine plays and 53 yards to take a 35-21 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Tres Houston just before halftime.
The touchdown reception was Houston’s third of the game, a new career high, and team-leading ninth of the season. The three scoring receptions are tied for second most in school history and fourth most in SBC history. All three of his touchdown receptions came in the second quarter, while Knighten set a career high with four touchdown passes in one half as A-State took the 14-point advantage into halftime.
J.D. Houston began the scoring in the second half for the Red Wolves as he connected on a 34-yard field goal, his ninth straight make, midway through the third quarter to put the score at 38-21. Just a little over a minute later A-State’s Money Hunter picked off a pass and took it to the house from 29 yards out to make the score 45-21. It was the team’s sixth defensive touchdown of the year.
A-State’s Robert Mondie recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter to set up a 35-yard strike from Knighten to Dijon Paschal to put the score at 52-21 in favor of the Red Wolves. Arkansas State added another touchdown when Knighten ran the ball in from two yards out with a little over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter to make the score 59-21, which turned out to be the final.
“I didn’t feel like we did a great job until the second half,” A-State head football coach Blake Anderson said. “We challenged the guys at halftime because we weren’t bringing the energy we needed to into the game. The guys responded and played a great second half in all three areas. Hopefully we learn from it.”
Knighten’s six touchdowns responsible for is tied for the third most in Sun Belt Conference history, while his five touchdowns through the air are tied for the most in school history after he tossed five in last season’s GoDaddy Bowl and Corey Leonard had five against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007.
A-State outgained ULM 448-252 on the day, as Knighten finished 15-of-30 with 300 yards through the air and added another 22 on the ground. Michael Gordon was the team’s leading rusher with 74 yards on 13 carries, while Paschal was the squad’s leading receiver with 100 yards on two catches, his second consecutive game with at least 100 yards receiving.
Defensively, the Red Wolves defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions. Rocky Hayes picked off his team-leading fifth pass of the season, while Hunter’s interception was his second of the year. Chris Humes intercepted his second pass of the season, while Raziel Velgis picked off his first pass of his career. Khari Lain led the team with 11 tackles, while the team tallied three sacks. Darrius Rosser led the team with 1.5 sacks, while Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Clifford Thomas, and Caleb Caston each had half a sack.
A-State began the scoring with Johnston White plowing into the end zone with his team-best 12th rushing touchdown of the season to make the score 7-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter. The score by White was set up by a 65-yard pass-and-catch from Knighten to Paschal.
Hayes picked off a pass early in the second quarter to set up a 27-yard strike from Knighten to Tres Houston. The interception by Hayes was his team-high fifth this season to go along with his second in as many games.
The Warhawks got on the scoreboard with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Earnest Carrington to Marcus Green with a little over 11 minutes to go in the second quarter and set the score at 14-7 in favor of the Red Wolves.
ULM tied the contest 14-14 with 5:33 remaining before halftime on a Carrington touchdown plunge from one yard out. The score was set up by a defensive pass interference and 21-yard reception by Rashon Ceaser earlier in the drive. Arkansas State answered quickly with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Knighten to Houston, his second of the game, with 4:04 remaining in the first half to retake the advantage at 21-14 before ULM tied it 21-21.
A-State has a bye week next weekend before traveling to Las Cruces, N.M., for a contest against New Mexico State. The game time will be announced at a later date.