FACTS & STATS: Site: Centennial Bank Stadium (30,964) — Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Television: None. Home Record: USA 2-2, ASU 3-0. Away Record: USA 3-1, ASU
2-3. Neutral Record: USA 0-0, ASU 0-0. Conference Record: USA 4-2, ASU 3-1.
Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Two of the Sun Belt Conference’s best will square off at
Centennial Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the Arkansas State Red
Wolves host the South Alabama Jaguars.
South Alabama had an opportunity to assert itself as a league favorite last
weekend at first-place Louisiana but fell on the wrong end of a 19-9 decision
to snap a four-game winning streak. The Jaguars are still just one win away
from bowl eligibility for the second straight season and are 4-2 in league
ASU is fresh off a three-game road swing in which it went 2-1, most recently
downing Idaho last Saturday, 44-28, to move to 5-3 and 3-1 in the Sun Belt.
The Red Wolves have played just three home games this season, but they’ve come
away victorious each time.
The Red Wolves have won both previous meetings in the all-time series, most
recently edging the Jaguars in Mobile last November, 17-16.
The Jaguars’ success this season has come in spite of their poor offense,
which ranks seventh in the Sun Belt in yardage (398.0 ppg) and eighth in
scoring (22.4 ppg). The unit only managed 336 yards and one touchdown in last
week’s crucial matchup with Louisiana.
Brandon Bridge has been lackluster under center. His touchdown (10) to
interception (four) ratio is acceptable, but he’s only completing 51.5 percent
of his throws for 182.1 ypg. He’s bailed the team out on occasion with stellar
rushing totals (258 yards, three TDs).
Despite Bridge’s struggles, Shavarez Smith has emerged as one of the league’s
most potent receivers with 34 receptions, 512 yards and six touchdowns. No one
else on the team has more than 190 receiving yards.
With Jay Jones (83 carries, 393 yards, three TDs) lost for the season with a
knee injury, Kendall Houston (81 carries, 429 yards, TD) and Xavier Johnson
(59 carries, 338 yards, TD) will handle the majority of the backfield
responsibilities from here on out.
South Alabama has remained relevant in the league standings this season thanks
to its stout defense, which gives up just 374.5 ypg and a Sun Belt-best 20.8
Terrell Brigham is the leader of the unit at safety with 64 tackles, a sack, a
forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Other defensive standouts include
Maleki Harris (50 tackles, 5.0 TFL, INT, three FF), Montell Garner (33
tackles, two INTs) and Theo Rich (9.5 TFL, 7.0 sacks).
ASU’s offense has been a well-oiled machine this season, scoring 32.6 ppg,
while displaying excellent balance between the run (220.8 ypg) and the pass
Dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten has orchestrated the offense very well.
He’s completing greater than 64 percent of his passes for 234.9 ypg with 10
touchdowns to just four interceptions, while tallying excellent rushing totals
as well (467 yards, seven TDs). He’s even caught two passes for 64 yards and a
Michael Gordon missed time earlier in the season but has returned as the focal
point of the rushing attack with 680 yards (on 8.6 yards per carry) and nine
touchdowns, with five of those scores coming in last week’s win.
Knighten’s favorite target is J.D. McKissic, who has caught 43 passes for 512
yards but has to find the end zone. Tres Houston (30 receptions, 358 yards,
two TDs) and Dijon Paschal (23 receptions, 415 yards, three TDs) are also
integral pieces of the offense.
Defensively, the Red Wolves have performed admirably in allowing 25.8 ppg and
391.4 ypg, while holding opponents to less than a 34 percent success rate on
The unit has created 18 takeaways, with Qushaun Lee (56 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two
INTs, two FF, fumble recovery) the most active playmaker. Sterling Young and
Artez Brown have two interceptions apiece. Xavier Woodson (7.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks)
leads the team with 69 tackles and Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is the reigning Sun
Belt Defensive Player of the Week after racking up four sacks against Idaho.
South Alabama’s defense is good enough to keep ASU’s high-powered offense in
check, but with the Red Wolves holding the homefield advantage, they should be
able to score enough to keep the Jaguars at bay.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 27, South Alabama 20