GAME 1: Arkansas State (0-0) hosts SMU (0-0)
Aug. 31, 2019 | Allison Field at Centennial Bank Stadium Jonesboro | 6 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)Matt Stolz (pxp), Tim Allison (analyst), Brad Bobo (sideline)
Television: ESPN+Roger Twibell (pxp), Pete Cordelli (analyst), Rich Zvosec (sideline)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Arkansas State will open its season at home for the fifth time over the last seven seasons, hosting SMU at Centennial Bank Stadium this Saturday, Aug. 31. The game will appear on ESPN+, and every Red Wolves football game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area. The live radio broadcast can also be accessed on the official A-State Athletics web site (AStateRedWolves.com) and the A-State Athletics app.
THE PRINCIPALS: The Red Wolves play both their home and season opener Saturday against American Athletic Conference member SMU. A-State was picked in the Sun Belt Conference preseason coaches’ poll to finish second in the league’s west division. SMU, coming off a 5-7 season, was picked to finish fourth in the AAC’s west division in the league’s preseason media poll.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 19-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who also coached in an NJCAA National Championship game, was named the Red Wolves’ 30th all-time head coach on Dec. 19, 2013. Anderson led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as five consecutive winning seasons and five bowl-game appearances (2018 Arizona Bowl, 2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first five seasons leading the program. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season records, including average yards total offense (494.8 ypg in 2017), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and points scored (520 in 2015).
FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS: The Arkansas State Athletics Department family was saddened to learn of the passing late Monday night, Aug. 19, of Wendy Anderson, wife of sixth-year head football coach Blake Anderson. Wendy’s courageous battle with cancer will continue to serve as an inspiration to many across the nation, and the outpouring of support far and wide for the Andersons and the A-State family has been overwhelming. Coach Anderson has taken a leave of absence to be with his family during this difficult time.
DUGGAN NAMED INTERIM HEAD COACH: Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator David Duggan was named A-State’s interim head coach on Monday, Aug. 19, until Blake Anderson decides to resume his activities as head coach. A-State Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Terry Mohajir remains in communication with Coach Anderson both on a personal and professional level and has stated that A-State “will obviously respect and honor any amount of time he needs before he feels he can return.”
INTERIM HEAD COACH DAVID DUGGAN: Currently serving in the interim head coach role at A-State, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator David Duggan is in his first season with the Red Wolves. While he holds a 10-9 all-time record as a head coach in NFL Europe and possesses 26 years of collegiate coaching experience, he will be the acting head coach in a college football game for the first time when A-State plays SMU Aug. 31 in its season opener. He came to the Red Wolves after spending the previous three seasons at Western Michigan, where he helped lead the program to a pair of bowl games, a Mid-American Conference championship and a combined 26-13 record. His initial year saw the Broncos post an undefeated 13-0 regular-season record, a final No. 12 ranking and a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where it dropped a narrow 24-16 decision to Wisconsin.
THE ARKANSAS STATE-SMU SERIES: The Red Wolves and Mustangs have met just three times before, playing a home-and-home series in 2006 and 2007 as well as the first contest of the current home-and-home arrangement in 2017. SMU leads the series 2-1 after claiming 55-9 and 44-21 victories in Dallas in 2006 and 2017, respectively. The Red Wolves’ picked up their lone win in the series in 2007, when it defeated the Mustangs 45-28 in Jonesboro.
A-STATE vs AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: Arkansas State holds an all-time 29-37-5 record against current members of the American Athletic Conference. While the Red Wolves are set to face a team competing as a member of the league at the time of the game for just the fifth time in school history, this will be third consecutive season they have played an AAC foe. Their four previous games against the AAC came in 2013 when they fell 31-7 at Memphis, 2016 when they defeated UCF 31-13 in the Cure Bowl, 2017 when they dropped a 44-21 decision at SMU and last season when they topped Tulsa 29-20 on the road. 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). The Red Wolves hold an all-time 3-2 record versus Tulsa and 23-29-5 record against Memphis.
FOR STARTERS: A-State snapped a three-year skid in season openers last year when they defeated Southeast Missouri State 48-21. Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the Red Wolves have posted just a 6-21 record in season openers. In addition to its 2018 season-opening win, A-State began the 2014 (37-10 vs Montana State), 2013 (62-11 vs. UAPB), 2008 (18-14 at Texas A&M), 2006 (14-6 vs. Army) and 1995 (21-17 vs. Utah State) campaigns with wins.
HOME OPENERS: Arkansas State claimed a 48-21 win over Southeast Missouri State last season in its home opener and has won its first game at Centennial Bank Stadium in 12 of the last 14 seasons dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves stand 32-13 all-time in home openers at the stadium and are also 18-8 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 14 consecutive years (2005-18) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 64-15 (.810 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 39 of their last 47 home outings. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 156-78-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985. The 2011 season also marked the last time the Red Wolves went undefeated at Centennial Bank Stadium.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : even its all-time record vs. SMU to 2-2 . . . mark the 13th time over the last 15 seasons it has won its home opener . . . give the Red Wolves a win in their season opener in back-to-back years for the first time since 2013 and 2014 . . . move its all-time record vs the American Athletic Conference to 3-2 . . . give David Duggan his first collegiate victory as a head coach.
PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT: Including five first-team and six second-team selections, the Arkansas State placed a league-high 11 different players on the 2019 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team. Representing Arkansas State on the first team were senior wide receiver Kirk Merritt, junior tight end Javonis Isaac, junior defensive end William Bradley-King, junior defensive lineman Forrest Merrill and junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs. Earning a spot on the second team for the Red Wolves were senior wideout Omar Bayless, junior center Jacob Still, senior defensive lineman Kevin Thurmon, senior safeties Darreon Jackson and B.J. Edmonds and senior punter Cody Grace. A-State’s 11 selections tied Appalachian State, which had 10 players comprise its 11 picks, for the most in the conference. The Red Wolves’ 11 players on the preseason all-conference team are their most since 2016, when they also had 11. They have now earned at least 11 selections four of the last six seasons as well.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: A-State has 10 players on at least one major watch list for the 2019 season, including six who play on the offensive side of the ball (Logan Bonner, Dahu Green, Javonis Isaac, Kirk Merritt, Marcel Murray, Jacob Still), three on the defensive (Tajhea Chambers, Darreon Jackson, Jerry Jacobs) and one on special teams (Cody Grace). The Red Wolves have at least one player on 11 different watch lists.
EIGHT STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record eight consecutive seasons (2011-18). The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 67 victories from 2011-18 for its most over an eight-year span in the program’s 105-year history.
ELITE COMPANY: Arkansas State is one of just four teams in the nation to win five conference titles and appear in eight bowl games since 2011, joining Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and hold the 15th longest active streak in the nation for bowl game appearances with eight.
105TH SEASON: Arkansas State will kick off its 105th season of football Aug. 31 at home against SMU. A-State holds a 473-487-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 16 bowl games. A-State did not field a team from 1942-44 due to World War II. Arkansas State also didn’t have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.
A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 51 of its last 63 Sun Belt Conference games (.810 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 83-48. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 26. A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 8): While Arkansas State last won the Sun Belt in 2016, it is still the only Group of 5 program and one of just four FBS programs in the nation to win five conference championships over the last eight years (2011-18). The only other teams to do so are Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC) and Oklahoma (Big 12). The Red Wolves most recently won back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016, compiling a 15-1 league record over that span. A-State also won the league title 2011-13, making it one of just two programs in league history with at least five SBC titles.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility status each of the last eight years (2011-18) and 11 times over the last 14 seasons. Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in 10 games or less each of those seasons. Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
BOWL STREAK: Arkansas State has made a school-record eight consecutive bowl-game appearances (2011-18), which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs.
A LOOK BACK: With a 3-1 record, Arkansas State secured a winning record last season against non-conference opponents for the first time since 1995, when it went 3-2. Additional, with wins against Tulsa and UNLV, the Red Wolves won back-to-back non-conference games against FBS opponents for the first time ever since moving to FBS status in 1992.300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 104 of its last 115 games (.904 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 59 of 64 games during the Blake Anderson era, including the last 25 in a row.400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 43 times over its last 64 games (67 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves have posted 400 or more yards total offense in each of their last seven games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 20 of their last 39 contests, the Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 61 of their last 94 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 48 of their last 54 games when scoring at least 30 points.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: Dating back to the 2015 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 39 of their last 42 games. A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation each of the last three seasons in tackles for loss.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 27 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last five years, posting a combined 177 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 36 of their last 37 games dating back to the 2016 season.