JONESBORO, Ark. (11/18/23) – Arkansas State football scored early and often en route to becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2019, routing Texas State 77-31 on Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium.
A-State (6-5, 4-3 SBC) scored seven times on the ground before piling on three defensive scores and a kickoff return touchdown, and scored its most points ever in a conference game. The 77 points against the Bobcats (6-5, 3-4) set the Sun Belt Conference record for points scored by a team in a league contest, while being the second-most in Centennial Bank Stadium history.
Three players rushed for multiple touchdowns, led by Ja’Quez Cross’ three scores. Cross rushed 13 times for 139 yards (10.7 per carry), while adding 156 kickoff return yards and a touchdown to go along with 15 yards receiving for 310 all-purpose yards. Zak Wallace scored twice on seven carries for 65 yards, while Cedric Hawkins found the endzone twice in the second half.
Trevian Thomas accounted for the first of A-State’s three defensive scores, picking up a third-quarter fumble and returning it 91 yards. Melique Straker piled up a dozen stops and added an 87-yard pick-six early in the fourth quarter. Dane Motley followed less than two minutes later by returning an interception 50 yards for a touchdown.
The Bobcats scored on the game’s opening drive, with Ismail Mahdi capping an 11-play sequence with a 4-yard rush. A-State answered quickly, scoring in four plays following a stellar kickoff return to midfield by Cross, which set up a 41-yard touchdown run by Wallace on a 4th-and-1 try.
After a 43-yard field goal by Mason Shipley put the visitors ahead 10-7, Wallace found the end zone again with 2:03 left in the first quarter, carrying multiple defenders across the goal line for an 8-yard score that gave the Red Wolves a 14-10 lead after the first 15 minutes.
Texas State took a 17-14 lead with 12:16 to go in the half on an 18-yard strike from TJ Finley to Joey Hobert, but A-State countered at the 9:14 mark when Cross burst through the line for a 42-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-17. Cross then scored again from 15 yards out after Keyron Crawford recovered a fumble to extend A-State’s lead to 28-17 with 4:01 left in the half.
Cross completed the hat trick with 1:52 remaining in the half, breaking loose for a 57-yard touchdown to put the Red Wolves on top 35-17 at intermission.
A-State took the second-half kickoff and scored on the ground again, this time on a 9-yard rush by Hawkins, who scored again four minutes later from 7 yards out to make it 49-17. From there, the A-State defense and special teams joined in on the scoring frenzy.
The Red Wolves made it 42-unanswered points on Thomas’ 91-yard fumble return touchdown, putting the count at 56-17. Finley then broke the scoring drought with a 7-yard toss to Kole Wilson, making it 56-24 with 12 seconds to go in the third period, but Cross took the ensuing kickoff the other way for a 93-yard score – his fourth of the day – to make it 63-24 after three.
Straker and Motley then moved the Scarlet and Black past the 70-point mark with their interception returns of 87 and 50 yards, pushing the score out to 77-24 with 10:39 left.
Texas State’s final tally came with 6:19 to play when Finley – who completed 37 of 55 pass attempts for 366 yards – connected with Wilson for a 3-yard score.
Arkansas State concludes the regular season next Saturday, November 25, at Marshall, with kickoff from Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W. Va., slated for 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The radio broadcast can be heard on the EAB Red Wolves Sports Network as well as on the A-State Red Wolves mobile app.
Red Wolves Rout Texas State, 77-31, to Become Bowl-Eligible. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council