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A-STATE GAME NOTES: vs Memphis

September 7, 2021

GAME 2: Arkansas State (1-0) hosts Memphis (1-0)
Sept. 11, 2021 | Centennial Bank Stadium
Jonesboro, Ark. | 6:00 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Matt Stolz (pxp), Phillip Butterfield (analyst), JC Cox (sideline)
Television: ESPN+
Brad Bobo (pxp), Pete Cordelli (analyst), Cori Keller (sideline)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

ON TAP:  Arkansas State remains at home for its second game of the 2021 season, hosting American Athletic Conference-member Memphis on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.  The contest will 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:  The Red Wolves collected their first season-opening win since 2018 by knocking off FCS member Central Arkansas 40-21 last week at Centennial Bank Stadium, but haven’t started a season 2-0 since 2008.  Memphis also enters the contest 1-0 after knocking off an FCS member in their season opener as well, topping Nicholls 42-17 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

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 brings 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’ 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.

THE ARKANSAS STATE – MEMPHIS SERIES:  Arkansas State has played Memphis more than any other opponent in school history, and Saturday’s game will mark the 60th all-time meeting between the two schools since 1914.  Memphis leads the all-time series 30-23-5 and has won the last two meetings, but A-State has won four of the last seven.  The Tigers collected a 37-24 home victory last season and also defeated the Red Wolves at the Liberty Bowl in 2013, but A-State has won the last three games (2012, 2011, 2007) between the two teams in Jonesboro.  Including 2021, the Red Wolves and Tigers are slated to play each other seven of the next nine years (home-and-home 2020-23 and 2026-29).

A-STATE vs AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:  Arkansas State holds an all-time 29-39-5 record against current members of the American Athletic Conference.  The Red Wolves are set to face a team competing as a member of the league at the time of the game for the seventh time in school history, including the sixth consecutive season.  Their six previous games against the AAC came in 2013 (L 31-7 at Memphis), 2016 (W 31-13 vs UCF in the Cure Bowl), 2017 (L 44-21 at SMU), 2018 (W 29-20 at Tulsa), 2019 (L 37-30 vs SMU) and 2020 (L 37-24 at Memphis).  A-State has also played the following current AAC teams, although they weren’t members of the league at the time of the games:  Cincinnati (1-1), East Carolina (0-2) and Navy (0-1).

FOR STARTERS:  Arkansas State won its season opener this year for the first time since 2018, running its record in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992 to 7-23.  The Red Wolves six season-opening wins since moving to FBS status include:
2021 vs Central Arkansas (W, 40-21)
2018 vs Southeast Missouri State (W, 48-21)
2014 vs Montana State (W, 37-10)
2013 vs UAPB (W, 62-11)
2008 at Texas A&M (W, 18-14)
2006 vs Army (W, 14-6)
1995 vs Utah State (W, 21-17)

34-YEAR SPAN:  Arkansas State is beginning its 2021 campaign with back-to-back home games for the first time since 1987.  The Red Wolves hosted Central Arkansas in its season opener on Sept. 4 and now face Memphis this Saturday.  The Red Wolves also opened their season at home for the sixth time over the last nine years.

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.

HOME OPENERS:  Following its 40-21 victory over UCA, Arkansas State has won its first home game played in 14 of the last 17 seasons dating back to 2005.  The Red Wolves now stand 34-14 all-time in home openers at Centennial Bank Stadium and are also 20-9 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992.

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 72-19 (.791 winning percentage) when playing at home since the 2005 season.  A-State’s actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 164-82-1 since it opened in 1974.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD …:  run the Red Wolves record against Memphis to 24-30-5 and snap a two-game skid versus the Tigers . . . make it 2-0 for the first time since the 2008 season . . . make Butch Jones one of five all-time A-State head coaches to win his first two games at the school and the first since Bill Davidson in 1971 . . . give the Red Wolves three consecutive victories dating back to the 2020 season . . . move its record versus the American Athletic Conference to 3-4, while also snapping a two-game skid versus teams from the conference.

RUCKER HONORED:  Wide receiver Corey Rucker was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week 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, and over his last two games played has recorded 18 receptions for 448 yards and seven touchdowns.

ECLIPSING 300:  Quarterbacks James Blackman (169) and Layne Hatcher (150) combined to pass for 319 yards against Central Arkansas, marking the fourth consecutive game dating back to last season that the Red Wolves have thrown for at least 300 yards.  A-State has also completed at least four touchdown passes in each of its last four games, including its first game this season and last three of 2020.  A-State ranked second in the nation in passing offense (364.4 ypg) and third in passing touchdowns (39) a year ago.

RUSHING RED WOLVES:  Five A-State players combined to post 194 rushing yards in the Red Wolves’ season opener, which were just five shy of the team’s season-best total for all of last season.  Running backs Alan Lamar, Marcel Murray and Johnnie Lang Jr. each ran for at least 36 yards against the Bears.

ON THE RETURN:  A-State running back Johnnie Lang Jr. posted three punt returns for 44 yards against UCA last week, 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.

PICK IT OFF:  Cornerback Samy Johnson and EJ Alexander each intercepted a pass in A-State’s season opener, which matched the Red Wolves’ single-game season high for all of last year.  A-State picked off just six passes for the entire 2020 season.  Alexander intercepted his first career pass at A-State, while Johnson collected his third.

STOPPING THE RUN:  A-State’s defense allowed just 42 rushing yards to UCA last week, 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).

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.

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Original article source: https://astateredwolves.com/news/2021/9/7/football-a-state-game-notes-vs-memphis.aspx | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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