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Preview: Arkansas State Red Wolves at Tulsa Golden Hurricane

GAME 4: Arkansas State (1-2) at Tulsa (0-3)

Sept. 25, 2021 | H.A. Chapman Stadium

Tulsa, Okla. | 4:00 p.m. (CT)

Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)

Matt Stolz (pxp), Phillip Butterfield (analyst), Brad Bobo (sideline)

Television: ESPN+

 

ON TAP:  Arkansas State remains on the road for the second consecutive week to close out its non-conference schedule with a 4:00 p.m. game Saturday against American Athletic Conference member Tulsa.  The contest will be appear on ESPN+, and every A-State football game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area.  The live broadcast can also be accessed on the official A-State Athletics web site (AStateRedWolves.com).

 

THE PRINCIPALS:  Arkansas State is in the midst of its first three-game road swing where each contest is being played on consecutive Saturdays for the first time since 2004.  The Red Wolves will conclude the non-conference portion of their regular-season schedule this weekend, but remain on the road next week as well to face Georgia Southern in their Sun Belt Conference opener.  They enter the contest with a 1-2 record, while Tulsa will bring an 0-3 mark into the contest after most recently falling 41-20 at Ohio State last week.

 

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 – TULSA SERIES:  Arkansas State and Tulsa are set to meet for the first time since 2018, although the two squads were scheduled to face each other in Jonesboro last year before the game was canceled.  The Red Wolves will now face the Golden Hurricane for the sixth time in school history, holding a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1978.  A-State claimed a 29-20 road victory in the 2018 game and has won three of the last four meetings between the two schools.

 

A-STATE/TULSA SERIES

 

2018, A-State @ Tulsa (W, 29-20)

 

2003, A-State @ Tulsa (L, 54-7)

 

2002, Tulsa @ A-State (W, 21-19)

 

1981, Tulsa @ A-State (W, 31-7)

 

1978, A-State @ Tulsa (L, 21-20)

 

 

 

A-STATE vs AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:  Arkansas State is set to play a member of the American Athletic Conference for the second time this year and eighth time since the league’s inaugural season in 2013, including each of the last six seasons.  While the Red Wolves hold an all-time 2-5 record versus AAC opponents, two of those five setbacks were decided by seven points or less.

 

A-STATE VS THE AAC

 

2021 vs Memphis (L, 55-50)

 

2020 at Memphis (L, 37-24)

 

2019 vs SMU (L, 37-30)

 

2018 at Tulsa (W, 29-20)

 

2017 at SMU (L, 44-21)

 

2016 vs UCF (W, 31-13 at the  Cure Bowl)

 

2013 at Memphis (L, 31-7)

 

 

 

ON THIS DATE:  Dating back to the 1926 season, Arkansas State holds an 8-5 record when playing on Sept. 25.  The Red Wolves have played on the date twice during this century, falling 35-28 at Troy in 2010 and defeating ULM 28-21 at home in 2004.  They claimed four consecutive wins in games played on Sept. 25 from 1948-71.

 

OKLAHOMA RED WOLVES:  Arkansas State has five players on its roster from the state of Oklahoma, including four who are listed on its current depth chart. The list includes Dahu Green (Oklahoma City), Jeff Foreman (Oklahoma City), Austin Woods (Claremore), Andre Harris Jr. (Oklahoma City) and Justin Dutton (Guthrie). The Red Wolves’ roster also includes Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College transfer Quinton Lee.

 

THE FIRST FIVE:  While Arkansas State began its 2021 campaign with back-to-back home games for the first time since 1987, it is now in the midst of playing 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 …:  move its all-time record versus Tulsa to 4-2 and give it two straight wins against the Golden Hurricane . . . improve its record against American Athletic Conference members to 3-5 . . . snap a five-game skid in road contests . . . give it a .500 or better non-conference record for the fourth consecutive season.

 

OFFENSIVE OUTBURST:  Not only did A-State set the school record for passing yards (582) versus Memphis, they also broke the school record for first downs in a game with 35.  The Red Wolves finished the contest with 98 plays, the second most in school history, and 680 yards of total offense for the fourth most ever by an A-State team.  Wide receiver Jeff Foreman finished the outing with a career-best eight receptions for 198 yards, which were the sixth most in school history for a single game.  Foreman has posted at least 100 receiving yards in four of the Red Wolves’ last six games, dating back to last season.  Additionally, Te’Vailance Hunt caught nine passes covering 123 yards, giving A-State three receivers this year with at least 100 receiving yards in a game. Corey Rucker had 138 yards against UCA.

 

RUNNING BACK RECEPTIONS:  Running back Lincoln Pare has already caught 11 passes for 109 yards this season, which is 24 more yards than he had for all of last season as a true freshman.  He’s ranked fourth on the team in both categories and his 11 catches are only one shy of the 12 total he had 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 three punt returns for 44 yards against UCA, surpassing the team’s 11 total punt return yards for all of last season.  Lang averaged 14.7 yards per attempt with a long return covering 29 yards.  A-State didn’t attempt a punt return versus Memphis.  However, Lang had two more returns for 13 yards against Washington to bring his season total to 57 yards for an 11.4 average per attempt.

 

ON THE RETURN (PART II):  Running back Alan Lamar posted six kickoff returns for 113 yards against Memphis, marking the first time an A-State player eclipsed 100 return yards since Roshauud Paul posted 126 against Appalachian State last season — a span of seven games.  Paul’s total marked the only time last season an A-State player went over 100 yards in kickoff returns.  Lamar’s six returns tied the seventh most in school history for a single game.  Lamar already has 10 returns for 174 yards on the season.

 

WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE:  A-State won or tied the turnover battle in each of its first three games this season, posting two interceptions against UCA, two fumble recoveries against Memphis and two picks and a fumble recovery against Washington.  The Red Wolves have posted multiple turnovers in three consecutive games for the first time since 2016.  The Red Wolves are currently tied for 13th in the nation in turnovers gained (7).

 

PICK IT OFF:  Arkansas State has posted four interceptions this season, which is just two shy of its six total for all of last year.  All four interceptions have come by different players, including Samy Johnson, EJ Alexander, Jeffmario Brown and Leon Jones.  Johnson now has three career interceptions, while the other three players have posted their first pick this year as a member of the A-State football team.

 

THREE IN A ROW:  Senior safety EJ Alexander has posted at least one turnover gained in all three games this season, including an interception versus UCA and a fumble recovery against both Memphis and Washington.  He added a forced fumble against the Huskies and also finished A-State’s most recent outing with a career-tying 10 tackles.

 

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 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.  The Tennessee transfer has recorded 1.0 or more TFL and at least a half sack in each of A-State’s first three games.  He is currently ranked third and tied for seventh in the Sun Belt Conference for TFL and sacks, respectively.

 

STOPPING THE RUN:  A-State’s defense allowed just 42 rushing yards to UCA, which were its fewest allowed in a game since limiting New Mexico State to 35 yards on Oct. 28, 2017.  The Red Wolves finished their season opener versus the Bears with 6.0 tackles for loss of 21 yards.  Three of those came from defensive end Kivon Bennett, matching his career high originally set at Tennessee.

 

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 four games played, he has recorded 26 receptions for 567 yards and eight touchdowns — he has at least one TD reception in three of those four 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 was responsible for a career-high 14 points during Arkansas State’s game against Memphis as he connected on all three of his field goal attempts and made 5-of-5 extra points.  The Sedalia, Mo., native’s 14 points tied the seventh most in school history and were just three shy of tying the fifth most in Sun Belt Conference history.  His three field goals made tied the most of his career, and he was successful on a 48-yard attempt that was the longest of his career.  He has already made six field goals this season, giving him 50 for his career that stand as the third most in school history.  He has run his career points-scored total to 290, which gives him the fourth most points by kicking in Sun Belt history.

 

INSIDE THE 20:  Ryan Hanson has posted at least three punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line every game this year, including a career-high four against Washington last week.  His 10 total punts inside the 20 leads the Sun Belt Conference.  Additionally, his 42.3 average per punt is almost a full two yards per attempt better than his 40.3 average a year ago.

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