Jonesboro, AR (A-State) – The Arkansas State football team became bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive season with a 30-12 Sun Belt Conference victory over Texas State Saturday afternoon at Centennial Bank Stadium.
The Red Wolves posted 469 yards total offense to more than double the Bobcat's 200 as they improved their overall record to 6-3 and league mark to 5-1. With the win, A-State moved into a four-way tie atop the Sun Belt standings with Troy, Appalachian State and Georgia State. Texas State saw its record move to 2-9 overall and 1-6 in conference play.
Junior running back Warren Wand rushed for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, while junior quarterback Justice Hansen completed 20-of-33 passes for 229 yards and another touchdown to pace the Red Wolves' offense. He was also responsible for a career-high two rushing touchdowns.
The A-State defense recorded a season-high 13 tackles for loss and two sacks, both by senior defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, to limit Texas State to 103 passing and 97 rushing yards. The Red Wolves' 200 yards total offense allowed was their fewest since holding UAPB to 173 in 2013. Rolland-Jones now has 41.5 career sacks, leaving him just three shy of breaking the all-time NCAA FBS record of 44 held by Arizona State's Terrell Suggs (2000-02).
"Becoming bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive season is a pretty good way to start the night," said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. "I thought we did the things we had to do to win this type of game, from 13 tackles for loss defensively to running the ball better than we have all year to controlling the time of possession and then being really good on third downs without any turnovers.
"It was not really attractive by any means, and it was really cold in nasty weather conditions, but we did what we had to do to win. Maybe the biggest thing was how we handled the quarters when we were right into the wind – we ran the clock, we ran the ball, we got timely stops defensively, and we took their shots when they threw them at us. We played a solid football game in bad weather conditions and came away with a win, so I'm very proud of that and happy to be bowl eligible."
Texas State took the game's opening possession 75 yards on 12 plays to claim an early 6-0 lead after missing the extra point on a day when high winds persisted throughout the entire contest. The Red Wolves answered, however, with scores on back-to-back-to-back possessions to go up 16-6 with 3:37 left in the opening quarter.
A-State put together a seven-play, 41-yard drive capped by a 39-yard field goal by sophomore Sawyer Williams on its first possession, then junior defensive back Justin Clifton forced a fumble recovered by Christian Booker on the ensuing kickoff.
Taking over at Texas State's 24-yard line, it took Wand three consecutive carries to reach the end zone and give A-State the lead at the 8:40 mark. The Red Wolves' final score of the first quarter followed a Texas State punt that was downed at the A-State 46-yard line. Hansen ended the 10-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 3:37 remaining, and that would be the final score of the first half.
The Bobcats struck first in the second half, again capitalizing on their first opportunity with the ball. Running back Robert Brown busted a run up the middle for 71 yards on the first play to put the ball at A-State's 12-yard line. Three plays later quarterback Damian Williams connected with Anthony Taylor for an 18-yard touchdown that pulled Texas State within 16-12 just five minutes into the half.
That would be the last score for Texas State as A-State extended its lead to 23-12 following an unsuccessful fake punt attempt by the Bobcats later in the third quarter. The Red Wolves took over at the Texas State 21-yard line and scored on another one-yard run by Hansen to put them back up by two scores.
The A-State defense forced a punt on Texas State's next possession, giving the ball back to the Red Wolves and setting up the game's final score. The drive took six plays and covered 49 yards, ending with 12-yard pass from Hansen to Kendrick Edwards with just 13 seconds left in the third quarter.