Jonesboro, AR (A-State) – A 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Chris Humes opened the scoring and the Arkansas State defense stifled South Alabama to win its 11th-straight Sun Belt Conference game with a 17-7 win Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium.
"I'm fired up about the win," said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. "I don't think it was an attractive win because it certainly was a defensive battle, but our defense stepped up huge. The turnover for a touchdown could not have come at a better time and I loved just being able to send the extra-point team out there and not worry about having a red zone series on offense."
The Red Wolves had a season-high six sacks led by senior Chris Odom with a career-high of three. Junior Ja'Von Rolland-Jones added two sacks while senior Waylon Roberson also registered a sack. The defensive pressure helped the Red Wolves limit South Alabama to just 61 yards rushing and 255 yards of total offense.
Offensively, sophomore Warren Wand had 18 carries for 88 yards while junior Johnston White had 12 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore quarterback Justice Hansen was 9-of-13 passing for 93 yards with an interception while rushing 15 times for 37 yards.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Red Wolves forced a turnover and produced a defensive touchdown to make it 7-0 with 12:50 left in the second quarter. South Alabama was driving, facing 3rd-and-6 from the A-State 41-yard line when a pass was complete for a gain of five yards, but Chris Humes forced a fumble and picked it up and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. The 60-yard fumble return tied for the fourth-longest in school history and was the first defensive score of the season for the Red Wolves.
A-State expanded the lead to 14-0 with a methodical 11-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up 5:11. Hansen, who finished the first half 6-of-8 passing, was 4-for-4 targeting four different receivers to account for 39 yards. White produced the touchdown as he scampered 14 yards for the score.
The lone second half score for the Red Wolves came late in the third quarter with a 25-yard field goal by senior J.D. Houston. A-State started the drive on their own 24 yard line and two rushes of 10-plus yards, a 14-yard gain by Hansen and a 10-yard rush by Wand, moved A-State inside Jaguars territory. Later in the drive, A-State faced 4th-and-6 from the Jaguars 33-yard line, but Hansen found junior Blake Mack for a gain of 24 yards to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, A-State lined up for the 25-yard field goal that split the uprights.
A-State appeared to have a shutout in sight as the Jaguars were scoreless with 7:44 left in regulation. South Alabama used a 76-yard pass and catch on 3rd-and-9 to get inside the 10-yard line. Three plays later, South Alabama found the end zone to end the shutout bid, but the Jaguars onside kick went out of bounds. After A-State was forced to punt, South Alabama had another chance to potentially pull closer, but the Red Wolves defense took over on downs and lined up in victory formation.