Jonesboro, AR (A-State) – Kendall Sanders had six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns and Warren Wand had 91 yards on 11 carries and two scores as the Arkansas State football team earned a 41-22 victory on Senior Day.
The win improves the Red Wolves to 5-4 on the season and a perfect 5-0 in Sun Belt Conference play. The Aggie fell to 2-7 overall and 1-4 in league play. With the win, A-State has won 14-straight league games.
Junior Ja’Von Rolland Jones had three sacks and four tackles for loss to key a defense that limited the Aggies to 15 points until the final 10 seconds. His three sacks tied for the sixth-most in single-game history and he is one sack shy of tying for the Sun Belt Conference career record.
Senior Money Hunter set a new Sun Belt Conference record with his fourth career interception returned for a touchdown. His interception was one of two turnovers forced by the A-State defense on the afternoon. Senior Cody Brown led the Red Wolves with 11 tackles and he added two pass break-ups.
Sophomore Justice Hansen was 20-of-27 passing for 257 yards and two touchdowns while junior Cam Echols-Luper added a 35 yard touchdown pass on a trick play. The Red Wolves finished with 293 yards passing and 160 yards on the ground. Junior Johnston White had seven carries for 31 yards and senior quarterback Chad Voytik added eight rushes for 26 yards as the Red Wolves outgained the Aggies 453-438.
“We found a win and I thought a lot of guys played well,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “It was kind of what we expected from their offense and we just kind of wanted to bend and not break. I know Joe (Cauthen) was frustrated we gave up more than we should, but we found a way to stiffen our neck and created ways to get turnovers and found way to stop them. We have areas we need improve, but we will learn from that and we found a way to make Thursday night matter and that was the goal tonight. I’m glad we could send the seniors out on a great note.”
After a three-and-out on the first possession, the Red Wolves found a groove with two plays of 40-plus yards contributing to the opening score of the game. Wand burst for a gain of 46 yards on 2nd-and-13 to push the Red Wolves past midfield. Three plays later, Hansen hooked up with Kendall Sanders for a 40-yard touchdown pass and catch. The extra-point was no good, but the Red Wolves led 6-0 with 10:55 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Money Hunter stepped in front of an Aggies pass and returned the interception 46 yards for the score. The interception return for a touchdown was the fourth of his career setting a new Sun Belt Conference record.
The Aggies got on the board with a 37-yard field goal late in the first quarter, but A-State regained control with a methodical drive to start the second quarter. The Red Wolves used 13 plays to cover 89 yards for the second touchdown drive with Wand plunging into the end zone for a three-yard score and a 20-3 advantage.
A trick play helped A-State grab a 24-point advantage, 27-3, late in the first half. The Red Wolves called a timeout facing 3rd-and-1 at the Aggies 35 yard and elected for the trick play. Hansen hit Echols-Luper with the quick pass to the left side and Echols-Luper looked down the field and hit a wide open Blake Mack for the 35-yard touchdown.
New Mexico State converted a 38-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to set the halftime score at 27-6. It took just one play for A-State to get on the board in the second half as Hansen hit Sanders for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 34-6 with 13:07 on the third quarter clock.
The Aggies appeared to gain some momentum as Larry Rose III capped a 52-yard scoring drive with an 11-yard run to cut their deficit to 34-13. The A-State offense went three-and-out after the score and the Aggies drove the field to set up 1st-and-goal at the Red Wolves 10. The defense held on 4th-and-goal from the two, but the Aggies tackled White in the end zone for a safety on the next play.
A-State regained control after the kickoff as a three-and-out featured two sacks. In the final minutes of the third quarter, A-State earned good field position due to a shanked punt. The Red Wolves started on the Aggies 29 yard line and Wand rushed four times in five plays to chew up 20 yards, scoring on a three-yard run to make it 41-15. The Aggies scored with four seconds remaining to set the final score of 41-22.
The Red Wolves close out the season with three road games, beginning Thursday night in an 8:30 p.m. matchup on ESPNU at Troy.