The Arkansas State football team got back to winning ways with a 38-14 win over Texas State on Saturday night in Jonesboro.
With the win, the Red Wolves improved to 2-2 in the Sun Belt Conference and 4-4 overall. Head coach Blake Anderson tied the record for second most Sun Belt Conference wins all-time among SBC head coaches with the win over Texas State.
Omar Bayless impressed once again as the redshirt senior receiver accounted for 77 yards on seven receptions along with scoring two touchdowns. Bayless leads the entire country in receiving yards with 1,070 on the year. Marcel Murray continues to regain strength; the sophomore running back rushed 22 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Layne Hatcher completed 18-of-28 passing attempting for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was huge to see us respond,” Hatcher said. “To see the mental toughness come out, to see how we came back better as a team in the second half. I think down in that locker right now there are a lot of happy guys. We’re really happy as a team. It’s good to dance in the locker room after a game for sure.”
A-State’s defense made major improvements and sophomore corner back Nathan Page came up with two major interceptions. A-State’s defense only allowed 227 total yards and eight first downs.
“Huge game by Nathan Page,” Anderson said. “Those are not easy catches. We are still in some one-on-one situations at times with what we’re doing.”
Anderson let the team know earlier this week he only wanted people on the team who were willing to fight for the program. His message definitely seemed to work. The Red Wolves looked dominant in all sides of the game from offense, to defense, to special teams and everything else.
“I made it really clear to them that I want guys that care about the team that are in the room,” Anderson said. “Obviously I removed a guy from the equation that I felt like wasn’t in that situation. I want guys that care about each other.”
“The culture is where it starts. X’s and O’s are a dime-a-dozen. The culture and environment is where it starts. We’ve always had that, but we needed a reminder on that as well.”
The Red Wolves put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter when Omar Bayless scored his second touchdown of the game to increase the Red Wolves’ advantage to 38-14. With his 12th touchdown catch of the season, Bayless tied the single-season SBC record for receiving touchdowns.
Any momentum the Bobcats might have had coming out of halftime was quickly put to a stop by the Red Wolves. Omar Bayless not only leads the nation in receiving yards, but he can also block punts.
Bayless blocked a Texas State punt deep in the Bobcats half to set up the Red Wolves with great field position at the Texas State 13-yard line. On the ensuing play after the blocked punt, Murray burned the Bobcat defense for a 13-yard touchdown run to put A-State ahead 24-14.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors. Texas State quarterback Tyler Vitt attempted a deep downfield pass that Page intercepted after some very physical corner play.
A few drives later, the special team woes continued for the Bobcats. On a Seamus O’Kelly punt, B.J. Edmonds returned the ball 34 yards to the Texas State 16-yard line. On the ensuing play, Murray ran for a 16-yard touchdown giving the Red Wolves a 31-14 lead.
Texas State just never got anything going on offense in the third quarter. Vitt’s favorite target seemed to be an A-State cornerback. Texas State’s sophomore quarterback attempted to air out a pass late in the third period that was once again intercepted by Page.
The teams went into the fourth quarter with the Red Wolves leading Texas State 34-14.
The Red Wolves started the second quarter just a few yards away from the end zone. However, A-State could not punch the ball in for a touchdown. Grupe came on for a short 20-yard field goal to give the Red Wolves a 10-0 lead.
Things got even better for A-State when the Red Wolves took a 17-0 lead after Jamal Jones ran for a 7-yard touchdown. Both Jones and Murray had a solid first half. Murray carried the ball 11 times for 52 yards while Jones ran the ball six times for 41 yards.
Although A-State had all the momentum at the beginning of the second quarter, the Bobcats never gave up and worked hard to work themselves back into the game.
Texas State drove the ball 65 yards to the Red Wolves’ two-yard line before being forced into a fourth down. The Bobcats went for it on fourth down and set up in wildcat formation.
Caleb Twyford took a direct snap from the two-yard line and rushed for a touchdown to bring the game to a 17-7 scoreline.
After a lackluster A-State drive, the Bobcats made the most of another opportunity. Vitt completed a 32-yard pass to Jah’Marae Sheread to set Texas State up for a touchdown. Vitt completed a pass to Hutch White to bring the game to a 17-14 scoreline.
The Red Wolves dominated the first quarter after it looked like Texas State was going to jump out to an early lead.
The Bobcats drove the ball down the field after receiving the opening kickoff and took the ball all the way to the Red Wolves’ one-yard line. The Bobcats called a fourth down passing play that ended up incomplete setting up a monster A-State drive.
Starting at their own one-yard line, the Red Wolves completed an 18-play, 99-yard drive for a touchdown. A-State went 4-5 on third down conversions during drive and also converted on fourth down once.
Hatcher found Bayless on a 13-yard touchdown pass to cap off the giant drive. Bayless broke the single-season school receiving touchdown record with the catch as he recorded his 11th receiving touchdown of the season. After Grupe’s extra point, A-State led 7-0.
Texas State’s offense never picked up anymore momentum in the first quarter. Deep in their own territory late in the quarter, the Bobcats fumbled the ball after Jeffmario Brown forced a fumble after batting the ball out of Vitt’s hand. The Red Wolves recovered the ball at Texas State’s two-yard line. The quarter ended 7-0 with the Red Wolves just a few yards away from a touchdown.
A-State hits the road as the Red Wolves travel to Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 2. Kick off is set for 2:30 p.m.
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