Red Wolves fall in season opener to SMU


PHOTO EDITOR | AMMAR TAQI: Omar Bayless had 10 receptions for 132 yards and four touchdowns against SMU.

The Arkansas State football team lost 37-30 to Southern Methodist University on Saturday night in the Red Wolves’ season opener. A-State’s record dropped to 0-1 on the season while SMU improved to 1-0.

In his first start for the Red Wolves, Logan Bonner completed 32-of-50 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. Redshirt senior Omar Bayless had an impressive evening for the Red Wolves making 10 catches for 132 yards and four touchdowns.

Bayless tied the single game receiving touchdown record for A-State in Saturday’s game. Sophomore running back Marcel Murray had a tough battle against SMU. Last season’s Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year carried the ball 17 times for 77 yards.

A-State interim head coach David Duggan placed a lot of blame for the result on himself. Duggan was quick to praise his players for their preparation and fight especially after the extremely tough few weeks they have had recently.

“It hurts, it hurts,’ Duggan said. “I really hurt for our team. They’ve been through a lot of adversity. I wish I could have done a better job in getting a win for them. They came through a lot of adversity this week. We talked about the adversity. The adversity can either define you, destroy you or it can strengthen you. I believe that this group was strengthened by the adversity they overcame this past week and a half. I’m proud of their effort and proud of their fight.”

The Red Wolves battled until the last play of the game and did not give up until the final snap. SMU opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown to extend the visitor’s lead 37-23 before A-State roared back.

As he did many times on the night, Bonner connected to Bayless in the end-zone with 5:59 left in the game to set up a thrilling finish. Down by one touchdown 37-30, with 2:27 left on the clock, Bonner drove the offense into Mustang territory. It came down to one final play; the Red Wolves had to score on the last snap of the game. Unfortunately for A-State, Bonner was  brought down and the Red Wolves fell to the Mustangs in an exciting season opener.

At the start of the third quarter, A-State emerged from the half energized. The Red Wolves started the period with a 69 yard drive capped by a touchdown pass from Bonner to Bayless to make the game 16-16 after Grupe’s extra point.

The Mustangs put A-State against the wall on the ensuing drive as SMU marched down the field into the red-zone. The visitors attempted a fourth and goal conversion but quarterback Shane Buechele’s pass landed incomplete turning the ball over on downs.

A-State took advantage of the opportunity and put together an impressive drive. Bonner led the Red Wolves a whopping 98 yards from goal line to goal line. The redshirt junior launched a pass into the air and Bayless brought the ball down for a touchdown. Grupe’s extra point gave the Red Wolves a 23-16 lead.

A-State’s momentum was short lived. On the ensuing kickoff CJ Sanders took the ball to the house bringing SMU within one point at 23-22. However, Mustang kicker Kevin Robledo missed the extra point attempt.

Things only got worse for A-State heading into the fourth quarter. BJ Edmonds fumbled a punt return handing possession back to the visitors after a successful defensive stand by the Red Wolves. SMU made no mistake and scored a touchdown, plus a two point conversion, to make the game 30-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

SMU headed to the locker room at half-time with a 16-9 lead over the Red Wolves. The Mustangs torched the home team for 276 yards of offense in the first half compared to A-State’s 96 yards. Buechele completed 21-of-34 passing attempts in the first half for 206 yards.

The Red Wolves started the second quarter on fire when A-State forced a Mustang fumble in their own end zone. SMU recovered the fumble for a Red Wolves’ safety which gave A-State a 9-3 lead.

From the point on, the visitors took control of the game during the second quarter. Xavier Jones ran into the end zone from nine yards out to tie the game at 9-9. Mustang kicker Kevin Robledo tacked on the extra point as SMU took their first lead of the night 10-9.

Robledo continued his stellar first half when the senior kicker made a 29 yard field goal to extend the Mustang’s lead 13-9 after a turnover by the Red Wolves.

The visitors missed a chance to really hurt A-State right before the break. SMU had the ball in the red-zone but settled for another Robledo field goal to give the visitors a 16-9 lead at the half.

A-State started the game in electric fashion. On SMU’s first drive of the game, Darreon Jackson intercepted a Buechele pass and ran to the Mustang’s seven yard line. Following the interception, Bonner connected with Bayless on the Red Wolves’ first offensive snap of the year for an easy seven yard touchdown pass.

The Mustangs offense began to pick up speed as SMU drove to the red-zone on their second drive of the game. However, the Red Wolves defense held strong to force the Mustang’s into a Robledo field goal.

The fans in Centennial Bank Stadium held their breath when Kirk Merrit was hit hard in the first quarter. Merrit laid on the ground motionless after Trevor Denbow illegally tackled the A-State receiver. Denbow was ejected for targeting.

The Mustangs missed an opportunity to score when Robledo attempted another field goal but missed the kick. The first quarter ended 7-3 in favor the Red Wolves.

Arkansas State returns to action Sept. 7 at UNLV.

Categories: Sports


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