Oct. 7, 2021 | Centennial Bank Stadium
Jonesboro, Ark. | 6:30 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Matt Stolz (pxp), Phillip Butterfield (analyst), Brad Bobo (sideline)
ON TAP: Following three consecutive road games, Arkansas State returns home to host No. 15-ranked Coastal Carolina on Thursday in a 6:30 p.m. game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Every A-State football game can be heard live on the EAB Sports Radio Network, including flagship station 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area.
THE PRINCIPALS: Arkansas State continues Sun Belt Conference play this week, turning its sights to a Coastal Carolina team that will be the highest Associated Press nationally-ranked opponent to ever play at Centennial Bank Stadium. The 15th-ranked Chanticleers are playing just their second road game of the season after getting off to a 5-0 overall start, including a 1-0 mark in league action. The Red Wolves began the season with a 40-21 victory over Central Arkansas, but have dropped their last four games to bring their overall and Sun Belt records to 1-4 and 0-1, respectively.
HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES: Butch Jones was announced as the Red Wolves’ 31st all-time head football coach on December 12, 2020. Jones not only brought 11 years of head-coaching experience at the NCAA FBS level with him to Jonesboro after previous stops leading the football programs at Tennessee (2013-17), Cincinnati (2010-12) and Central Michigan (2007-09), but he also spent the last three seasons (2018-20) working as part of Nick Saban’s staff at national-power Alabama. During Jones’ first 11 seasons serving as a head coach, his teams combined to win four conference championships, played in eight bowl games and finished ranked in the AP Top 25 five times. He has coached a combined 77 all-conference honorees and 27 NFL Draft picks.
DEBUT GAMES: Butch Jones is A-State’s 31st all-time head coach, but became just the 11th to claim a victory in his first ever game at the school. Each of the two head coaches (Blake Anderson and Bryan Harsin) immediately preceding Jones won their initial games, but Harsin in 2013 was actually the first to do so since Larry Lacewell in 1979, snapping a streak of seven head coaches to drop their debuts. A-State’s head coaches to win their first game at the school include Jones (2021), Anderson (2014), Harsin, Lacewell, Bill Davidson (1971), Gene Harlow (1955), Glen Harmeson (1954), Bill Adams (1939), Jack Dale (1931), Bill Stanley (1924) and Clint Young (1913). Among the same group, Davidson was the last to win his first two games in 1971.
FAMILY TIES: Research indicates that Butch Jones is one of nine FBS head coaches in the nation with a son currently playing at an FBS institution. Adam Jones, one of Jones’ three sons, is currently a redshirt freshman wide receiver for the Red Wolves after transferring from Central Michigan to A-State after Jones accepted the Red Wolves’ head coaching position. Jones’ oldest son, Alex, is also in his first season in an offensive quality control position for the Red Wolves. His youngest son, Andrew, is a member of the freshman football team at Valley View in Jonesboro.
THE ARKANSAS STATE – COASTAL CAROLINA SERIES: Arkansas State holds a 3-1 record against Coastal Carolina, although the Chanticleers claimed a 52-23 victory at Brooks Stadium in Conway last season. All four games have been played as Sun Belt Conference opponents, including the first meeting in 2017 when the Red Wolves collected a 51-17 win in Jonesboro. A-State also topped the Chanticleers 28-27 at Centennial Bank Stadium in 2019 and went on the road to pick up a 44-16 victory in 2018.
A-STATE/COASTAL CAROLINA SERIES
Oct. 3, 2020: @ Coastal Carolina (L, 23-52)
Nov. 16, 2019: vs Coastal Carolina (W, 28-27)
Nov. 10, 2018: @ Coastal Carolina (W, 44-16)
Oct. 14, 2017: vs Coastal Carolina (W, 51-17)
A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 58 of its last 80 Sun Belt Conference games (.725 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 90-58. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 27. A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: The Red Wolves stand 13-8 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers following their 59-33 setback at Georgia Southern last week. Although A-State dropped its first SBC game the last two years, it has won six of its last nine league openers. The Red Wolves played their first Sun Belt game on the road for the fifth consecutive season this year. They also faced Georgia Southern in their Sun Belt opener for the fourth time, tying ULM for their most played opponent in such games.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Arkansas State holds a 26-10 record over its last 36 games played in the month of October for a .722 winning percentage. A-State had won 11 games in a row during the month prior to falling to Appalachian State on Oct. 9, 2018.
ON THIS DATE: Dating back to the 1916 season, Arkansas State holds a 6-7 record when playing on Oct. 7. The Red Wolves last played on the date in 2006, collecting a 10-6 home victory over ULM. Seven of A-State’s previous 13 games on Oct. 7 were played in Jonesboro, posting a 3-4 record in those outings.
TAKING ON THE TOP 25: Arkansas State holds two all-time victories over an AP Top 25 team, including a 35-3 win over No. 25 Troy in 2016 and a 17-13 win over No. 25 Kent State in the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl (2012 season). At No. 15, Coastal Carolina will be the highest-ranked Arkansas State opponent to play a game at Centennial Bank Stadium. A-State also hosted No. 21 Missouri (L, 20-27) in 2015 and No. 25 Memphis (L, 35-47) in 2004.
MIDWEEK MADNESS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thur.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves hold a 21-9 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league. They have won 17 of their last 23 midweek contests.
THE FIRST FIVE: While Arkansas State began its 2021 campaign with back-to-back home games for the first time since 1987, it then played three consecutive Saturdays on the road for the first time since 2004. The Red Wolves also played three road games in a row in 2020, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2008, but none of them on three consecutive Saturdays.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD …: run its all-time record versus Coastal Carolina to 4-1 . . . give the Red Wolves’ their third all-time win over an AP Top 25 team and first since 2016 . . . mark the highest AP-ranked opponent Arkansas State has ever defeated . . . improve its record to 27-10 over its last 36 games played in the month of October . . . make it 1-1 through two Sun Belt Conference games played for the third consecutive season . . . snap Coastal Carolina’s 10-game Sun Belt winning streak.
LAMAR EARNS SBC WEEKLY AWARD: Senior running back Alan Lamar was named the Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week after posting 178 kickoff return yard, including a 93-yard touchdown return, during the Red Wolves’ game at Tulsa. His 178 return yards stand as the fourth most in school history and are tied for the third most in the nation this season. His 93-yard return tied the ninth longest in A-State history and was the second longest by a Sun Belt player this season. It marked the first time since 2019 that an A-State player returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Lamar has accumulated 442 kickoff return yards this year that are the most in the country.
PASSING ATTACK: Including a school-record 582 passing yards against Memphis and 443 versus Georgia Southern, the eight most in school history, Arkansas State has thrown for 1,885 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. The Red Wolves are averaging 377.0 passing yards per game that ranks fifth in the nation, while their 15 passing touchdowns are tied for the seventh most. A-State has thrown for at least 300 yards and two scores in four of its first five games, including the UCA, Memphis, Tulsa and Georgia Southern contests.
RUNNING BACK RECEPTIONS: Running back Lincoln Pare has already caught 14 passes for 134 yards this season, which is 49 more yards than he had for all of last season as a true freshman. He’s ranked fourth on the team in receptions and fifth in receiving yards. His 14 catches are also two more than his career total entering the year. Pare finished the Washington game with seven catches for 69 yards — both career highs.
ON THE RETURN: A-State running back Johnnie Lang Jr. posted a career-long 63-yard punt return for a touchdown during A-State’s game at Tulsa, which was A-State’s first punt return for a score since Blaise Taylor also found the end zone on a 63-yard return against Nebraska in 2017. It was the longest return by a Sun Belt player this season, and he now has seven returns for 120 yards, which are the 10th most in the country.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUCCESS: Between Blake Grupe’s two field goals and four extra points, Johnnie Lang’s punt return for a touchdown and Alan Lamar’s scoring kickoff return, A-State’s special teams accounted 22 of its 34 points scored against Tulsa. Arkansas State became just the second Sun Belt Conference team to ever record both a kickoff return and punt return for a touchdown in the same game. Louisiana was the other — at Iowa State last year (Sept. 12, 2020). The outing marked the first time an A-State team accomplished the feat for the first time since Nov. 11, 2000, at North Texas.
TURNOVER BATTLE TWIST: While A-State won or tied the turnover battle in each of its first three games, it has gone the other way for the Red Wolves their last two outings. Arkansas State posted seven turnovers gained over its first three games combined, but has just one the last two games combined. Tulsa held a 2-1 advantage in take aways, while Georgia Southern posted four interceptions to A-State’s zero turnovers gained.
PICK IT OFF: Arkansas State has posted five interceptions this season, which is only one shy of its six total for all of last year. All five interceptions have come by different players, including Samy Johnson, EJ Alexander, Jeffmario Brown, Leon Jones and Jarius Reimonenq. Johnson now has three career interceptions and Reimonenq two, while the other three players have posted their first pick this year as a member of the A-State football team.
DISRUPTING THE BACKFIELD: Junior defensive end Kivon Bennett has made an immediate impact on the A-State defense his first season with the program, already posting 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. The Tennessee transfer has recorded 1.0 or more TFL in every game and at least a half sack in four outings. He is currently ranked third and tied for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference for TFL and sacks, respectively.
DYNAMIC DUO: A-State’s two starting defensive ends, Jojo Ozougwu and Kivon Bennett, have combined for 14.0 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks through A-State’s first four games. Both players have recorded 3.5 sacks this year, and Ozougwu has posted 5.0 tackles for loss to go along with Bennett’s 9.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Both players are ranked among the top nine in both categories among Sun Belt players.
EXPERIENCE UP FRONT: Arkansas State entered the season with nine different offensive linemen who had combined to start 149 career games at the FBS level, which was the fourth most in the nation behind only Minnesota (180), Miami (159) and Michigan State (151). Including players who have started at least one FCS game, the Red Wolves had 10 o-linemen who combined for 157 career starts, which was also the fourth most in the nation behind Illinois (193), Minnesota (180) and Miami (159).
RUCKER HONORED: Wide receiver Corey Rucker was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 6 after recording nine receptions for 138 yards and three touchdowns against UCA. He was also named the league’s offensive player of the week following the Red Wolves’ 2020 season finale. Over his last six games played, he has recorded 37 receptions for 768 yards and 10 touchdowns — he has at least one TD reception in four of those six outings.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 16 consecutive years (2005-20) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 72-20 (.783 winning percentage) when playing at home since the 2005 season. A-State’s actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 164-83-1 since it opened in 1974.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Arkansas State football team was picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division in the league’s preseason coaches poll. The Red Wolves received one first-place vote and 38 points, 11 fewer than a Louisiana team that picked up nine first-place votes. A-State checks in as the West Division No. 2 pick for the third consecutive season in the poll. The Red Wolves return six starters on offense and nine on defense from last year’s squad.
PRESEASON ACCOLADES: Between Athlon Sports, Phil Steele’s, College Football News and Pro Football Focus, 13 different A-State players have received preseason All-Sun Belt Conference recognition. The A-State players who have been recognized include defensive end TW Ayers, defensive lineman Kivon Bennett, linebacker Caleb Bonner, safety Antonio Fletcher, wide receiver Jeff Foreman, wide receiver Dahu Green, kicker Blake Grupe, defensive lineman Terry Hampton, offensive lineman Andre Harris Jr., quarterback Layne Hatcher, running back Marcel Murray, wide receiver Corey Rucker and tight end Reed Tyler.
A LOOK BACK: A-State’s first spring camp under HC Butch Jones wrapped up April 17 with its spring game at Centennial Bank Stadium. There were several spring-camp team awards presented as the football staff chose five individuals who maintained consistent success on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom. The players recognized for “consistency in performance” were wide receiver Corey Rucker (offense), linebacker Caleb Bonner (defense) and kicker Blake Grupe (special teams). Senior safety EJ Alexander was awarded the “Pack Performance Award” for his consistent performance in the weight room. Defensive back Taylon Doss was issued the 4-6/A to B” award for his performance on special teams in the secondary.
IT’S GOOD: Junior kicker Blake Grupe continues to climb the A-State record books this season, ranking among the top three players in career points scored, field goals made and extra points made. Grupe has posted a double-digit points total in three of five games this season, including a career-high 14 against Memphis. Grupe is 9-of-12 on field goals made this season, including a career-long covering 50 yards against Tulsa.
INSIDE THE 20: Ryan Hanson has posted at least three punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in four of five games this year, including a career-high four against Washington. His 13 total punts inside the 20 leads the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, his 42.6 average per punt is more than a full two yards per attempt better than his 40.3 average a year ago.