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A-State football drops game at Georgia State, 28-20

Melique Straker (38) had 14 tackles and 2 TFL in the loss for the Red Wolves.
Melique Straker (38) had 14 tackles and 2 TFL in the loss for the Red Wolves.(KAIT-TV)
Published: Nov. 20, 2021 at 9:15 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - In the penultimate outing of the 2021 season, the Arkansas State football team battled hard but dropped a 28-20 decision to Georgia State Saturday at Center Parc Stadium.

A-State (2-9, 1-6 SBC) overcame a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter on an 80-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown by Kivon Bennett with under 5 minutes to play, but the Panthers (6-5, 5-2) chewed up the rest of the clock in their final drive to stave off the Red Wolves.

“We had a lot of missed opportunities, and not just in the second half,” head coach Butch Jones said.” “It started on the first drive (of the game). The defense does a great job of taking the ball away, and you have to play complimentary football and turn that turnover into seven points, and we had to kick a field goal. When you give up 15 tackles for loss and 6 sacks, you’re going to struggle. Defensively, we continue to get better. It was disappointing at the end. We clawed, scratched and fought, and Kivon does a great job of scooping and scoring. Then, we had an opportunity to generate a 3-and-out and try to score and force overtime, and we weren’t able to do that.”

Bennett’s score was A-State’s first fumble returned for a score since 2019 and was the third-longest in program history, but it wasn’t the only 80-plus-yard touchdown of the day for the Red Wolves. Also on the defensive side of the ball, Melique Straker recorded 14 total tackles (2 for loss), while Charles Willekes tallied 10 stops, both notching career highs.

Lincoln Pare notched an 83-yard touchdown reception on the afternoon as part of a career day as a pass-catcher. The Germantown, Tenn., native caught all six passes thrown his direction for 118 yards.

On special teams, Blake Grupe posted eight points and became the school’s all-time scoring leader among all players with 344 career points. He did so by connecting on both of his field goals and a pair of extra points. He moved past former running back Richie Woit (342 points, 1950-53).

Georgia State out-gained A-State 434-270, including 282 yards on the ground behind 125 yards and a pair of scores by Jamyest Williams. Tucker Gregg rushed for 98 yards while quarterback Darren Grainger earned 46 yards. Grainger also passed for 152, completing 10 of 21 passes. Jamari Thrash was the Panthers’ top receiver, hauling in four catches for 103 yards.

Grupe put the Scarlet and Black ahead first, drilling a 40-yard field goal early in the opening quarter. GSU then scored 14 unanswered on rushing scores by Williams and Gregg, putting the Panthers ahead 14-3.

Pare’s 83-yard touchdown strike from A-State quarterback Layne Hatcher made it 14-10 with 9:44 remaining in the half. The Red Wolves’ defense then kept the Panthers off the board the rest of the half, paving the way for Grupe’s record-breaking kick. The Sedalia, Mo., native ended the half on a strong note, drilling the 36-yard field goal to become A-State’s all-time leading scorer. Georgia State led 14-13 at the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Panthers picked up a pair of quick scores on the ground by Williams and Grainger to make it a two-score lead again.

A-State’s next drive ended on downs, but on a completion from Grainger to Roger Carter, Bennett knocked the ball loose and returned it the other way for a defensive score to put the Red Wolves down 28-20 with 4:22 remaining. With A-State’s defense looking to force a 3-and-out, the Panthers managed the final minutes of the contest, running 10 plays to end it.

A-State returns home for its final game of the season, facing Texas State. Kickoff at Centennial Bank Stadium is set for 1 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcasted live on ESPN+. 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).

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