With under two minutes remaining, Arkansas State needed a touchdown to tie, reaching the South Alabama 6-yard line, but a turnover on downs ended things as A-State dropped a 38-31 decision to the Jaguars Saturday night at Centennial Bank Stadium.
The Red Wolves (3-7, 1-6 Sun Belt) held a fourth-quarter lead, but the Jaguars (4-6, 3-4) scored 10 unanswered to escape with the win. A-State outgained South Alabama 494-486 and picked up a career-high-tying four touchdowns from Logan Bonner, while Desmond Trotter and Tanner McGee combined for four scores each through the air and 387 yards.
“I’m proud of how we moved the ball down the field (on the final drive),” head coach Blake Anderson said. “It’s a tough situation to be in with no timeouts and they’re playing coverage. We had a couple of big plays, but you’ve got to finish. It really didn’t come down to the last drive, we had some opportunities that we didn’t convert. We had some situations on defense where we could’ve gotten them off the field and we couldn’t make a play. The guys are still playing hard and they’re not giving in, we just have to play better.”
Bonner completed 11 of 16 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns while Layne Hatcher completed eight of his 14 attempts for 141 yards. Jonathan Adams, Jr. and Jeff Foreman both tallied over 100 yards receiving, with 138 and 111 yards, respectively. Adams hauled in a pair of scores as part of nine catches while Brandon Bowling also added two touchdowns on four grabs. A-State rushed for 170 yards on the ground, led by 93 yards on 19 carries by Jamal Jones.
South Alabama quarterbacks combined to complete 22 of 30 passes for 387 yards. Trotter connected on 16 of 22 passes for 242 yards before giving way to McGee late in the contest, who completed six of eight passes for 145 yards. Jalen Tolbert recorded 252 of those 387 yards on 10 catches and three touchdowns to lead the way, while Kawaan Baker added a touchdown to go along with five catches for 51 yards.
The Red Wolves struck first on its opening drive, with Bonner finding Bowling for a quick three-yard pass to give A-State a 7-0 lead with 8:50 left in the first. The Jaguars tied it up with 35 seconds remaining in the opening quarter when Trotter rushed up the middle for a two-yard score on a QB keeper. The touchdown was set up by a 41-yard pass from Trotter to Tolbert on the previous play.
South Alabama took a 14-7 lead with 11:23 to go in the half on a 26-yard pass from Trotter to Baker. A-State tied it up at 14 with 1:09 left when Bonner found Bowling for a 25-yard strike. The Red Wolves then took a 17-14 lead at halftime on a 35-yard field goal by Blake Grupe.
On the first drive of the second half, A-State drove down the field in nearly five minutes, capping the nine-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Bonner to Adams. The Red Wolves led 24-14 with 9:55 to go in the third. The Jaguars then responded with a 42-yard strike from Trotter to Tolbert with 6:39 left to make it 24-21. USA then took a 28-24 lead with 34 seconds remaining in the third on a 37-yard pass from McGee to Tolbert.
The Red Wolves opened the fourth quarter by reclaiming a 31-28 lead on a three-yard pass from Bonner to Adams with 12:03 to go. McGee then found Tolbert for a 51-yard strike with 4:56 left to put South Alabama back ahead 35-31. After a turnover on downs, South Alabama added three on a 30-yard field goal by Diego Guajardo to make it 38-31 with 1:24 remaining.
A-State took possession on the next drive needing a score to tie it up. Hatcher guided the offense down to the South Alabama 22 with a 14-yard rush followed by completions of 11 yards and 29 yards to Foreman and Adams. After an incomplete pass to Reed Tyler, Hatcher’s next pass was seemingly picked off by Keith Gallmon, but was ruled incomplete.
Hatcher then rushed it 11 yards to the USA 11 then five more down to the 6. An incomplete passed forced fourth down, where Hatcher was sacked to end the contest.
A-State continues its three-game home stand to end the regular season on Saturday, Dec. 5, hosting ULM at 2 p.m. on ESPN3. Every Red Wolves football game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area. The live radio broadcast can also be accessed on the official A-State Athletics web site (AStateRedWolves.com).