ON TAP: Arkansas State will open its home slate with long-time rival Memphis on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. in an ESPN3.com televised game at ASU?Stadium. Every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM?in the Jonesboro area and the live radio broadcast can be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic Web site (AStateRedWolves.com).
THE PRINCIPALS: A-State and Memphis both enter Saturday's game looking for their first win still early in the 2011 season after both teams dropped their season opener last week. The Red Wolves fell by 18 on the road at Big Ten foe Illinois, while Memphis suffered a 45-point setback at home to nationally-ranked Mississippi State.
HEAD COACH HUGH FREEZE: After enjoying successful stints as both a head and assistant coach at the NCAA?FBS, NAIA and high school levels over the last 18 years, Hugh Freeze was named Arkansas State's 27th head football coach on Dec. 2, 2010. Freeze most recently completed his first season as Arkansas State's offensive coordinator, guiding the Red Wolves' offense to a record-breaking year in 2010.
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 56th meeting all-time between the two schools since 1914. Memphis leads the all-time series 28-21-5, and won the last game played between the two schools by a 29-17 score in 2008. A-State will host Memphis for the first time since 2007 when it claimed a 35-31 victory by overcoming a 25-point halftime deficit. ASU?also hosted Memphis in 2004 and set the ASU?Stadium record for attendance with 30,427 fans on hand. While the Red Wolves' 2011 game against Memphis will conclude a four-year home-and-home series, a new two-year home-and-home series with the Tigers guarantees that ASU's oldest rivalry game will continue through at least 2013.
A-STATE vs. CONFERENCE USA: Memphis was actually the last Conference USA opponent that A-State played when the two teams met in 2008. Arkansas State holds a 26-45-5 record all-time against current members of the league. Versus current C-USA?members, the Red Wolves are 21-28-5 against Memphis, 1-1 against SMU and 2-9 against Southern Miss. The other C-USA teams the Red Wolves have faced are UCF (0-1), East Carolina (0-2), UAB?(0-2) and Tulsa (2-2).
ON THIS DATE: Arkansas State has played just four times on Sept. 10 and holds 2-2 record in those games, winning its first two before dropping the last two. A-State first played on the date in 1977, picking up a 31-29 home victory over Drake in its season opener. A-State also recorded a 27-14 win over UT?Chattanooga on the date in in in 1983, but fell to Memphis 9-7 and Nevada 18-0 in 1988 and 1994, respectively. Both of the Red Wolves setbacks came on the road, giving it a 2-0 record in home games played on Sept. 10.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .: Extend its winning streak in home openers at ASU?Stadium to seven games . . . Improve its all-time record in home openers at ASU?Stadium to 27-11 . . . Snap an eight-game non-conference skid . . . Mark ASU's first victory over a BCS?non-conference opponent since 2008 when it defeated Texas A&M 18-14 in its season opener.
HOME OPENERS: Arkansas State has won its last six home openers at ASU?Stadium dating back to the 2005 campaign. The Red Wolves stand 26-11 all-time in home openers at ASU?Stadium and are also 13-6 in such games since moving to Division I-A (FBS) in 1992.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has posted an actual on-field winning record at ASU?Stadium the last six seasons dating back to 2005, holding a 24-7 record over that span. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at ASU?Stadium is 116-70-1 since opening in 1974.
97th SEASON UNDER WAY: Arkansas State kicked off off its 97th season of football on Sept. 3 at Illinois. ASU?now holds a 406-452-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and has played in seven bowl games. A-State did not field a football team from 1942-44 due to World War II. ASU?also didn't have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.
Tennessee RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has 17 players on its roster from the state of Tennessee, including 11 players coming directly from Memphis or the near area. Among the players from the Memphis area that are listed on A-State's 2-deep are Julian Jones (So., WR, Germantown), Tausean Holmes (Jr., DB, Millington), Sirgregory Thornton (So., RB, Memphis), Justin Robertson?(Sr., DE, Memphis) and Nick Nelms (Jr., LB, Germantown).
300-PLUS: Dating back to last season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in all 13 games played for the longest streak in school history. ASU?posted over 300 yards of total offense in just six games the season prior to Hugh Freeze taking over as offensive coordinator.
APLIN CONTINUES RECORD BOOK CLIMB: Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin continued to climb the ASU?career record books, jumping one place in three different statistical categories during last week's game against Illinois. Aplin took over fourth place for completions (349), sixth place for total offense (4,859) and seventh place for passing yards (4,118).
ECLIPSING 200/300: Junior quarterback Ryan Aplin passed for at least 200 yards for the 11th time of his career last game with 290 yards to his credit, and all 11 games have come over his last 15 played. ?He also recorded over 300 yards of total offense for the sixth time of his career, finish the Illinois game with 301 yards.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Three different A-State wide receivers caught a team-high five passes against Illinois, and four other players were responsible for the Red Wolves other five receptions. Josh Jarboe, Taylor Stockemer and Dwayne Frampton all hauled in five passes to lead ASU. Frampton posted a 65-yard reception that was the longest of his career and Stockemer recorded 87 receiving yards that were just two shy of his career high. Jarboe, a highly touted recruit, made his debut at ASU?with 58 receiving yards.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: The Red?Wolves defense recorded three sacks and eight tackles for loss in the first game of the season. A-State posted eight or more tackles behind the line of scrimmage in three games for all of last season and had three or more sacks in three games last year as well.
CAREER DAY: Senior defensive end Justin?Robertson posted a career-high eight tackles (previous was five) against Illinois, and also posted one tackle for loss to match his career. Senior safety A.J. Hills also topped his previous career high for tackles (5) with seven and recorded his first career fumble recovery.
NEW STARTERS: Seven players made their first career start at ASU last week, including Sirgregory Thornton (Soph., RB), Frankie Jackson (Fr.-R, RB), Alex Kauti (Sr., OL), Jake Campbell (Soph., OL), Zack McKnight (Jr., OL), Qushaun Lee (Fr.-R, LB) and Don Jones (Jr., DB).
IMMEDIATE CONTRIBUTORS: The Red Wolves had seven first-year players that saw action in last week's season opener, including true freshmen Artez Brown and Kyle Coleman who both contributed on special teams. The other players that were part of ASU's most recent recruiting class and played against Illinois were Josh Jarboe (Jr., WR), Steven Haunga (Jr., OL), Kevin Galindo (Jr., OL), James Williams (Sr., OL) and Anthony Kincy (Jr., TE) -- all junior college transfers.
BIG BOOT: Senior punter Neely Sullivent booted a career-long 67 yard punt last week against Illinois, which was the longest by an ASU?player since 1998 when Ryan Smith recorded a 69-yard punt against Ole Miss. Sullivent finished the game with two punts for 114 yards to give him a career-best 57.0 yard average, which was also the best in the Sun Belt for week one.
DIALING IT UP FROM LONG DISTANCE: Sophomore kickers Bobby Zalud and Brian Davis were responsible for the longest field goals of their career against Illinois, as Zalud connected from 49 yards out and Davis from 47. Zalud's previous long was 39 yards and Davis' was 41. The kicks were the two longest by a Sun Belt Conference player last week.
PRESEASON ALL-SBC ACCOLADES: Five Arkansas State football players were tabbed Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference, including senior wide receiver Dwayne Frampton, senior center Tom Castilaw, senior defensive lineman Dorvus Woods, senior linebacker DeMario Davis and senior safety Kelcie McCray.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Red Wolves finished fifth in the preseason poll that was voted on by the league's nine head coaches. Arkansas State received 49 points in the poll with one first-place vote, with FIU receiving the nod as the preseason favorite with 75 points and five first-place votes. The Golden Panthers were followed by Troy with 66 points and two first-place votes, with Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe tying for third at 54 points each.
NATIONAL COVERAGE: Arkansas State will play at least one nationally-televised game for the third consecutive year in 2011. The Red Wolves will host a nationally-televised game for the second straight season as well, catching Florida International at ASU?Stadium Oct. 18 on ESPN2.
RIMINGTON AWARD WATCH LIST: Senior center Tom Castilaw is on the 2011 Rimington Award Watch List issued annually to the nation's top center, making him the second ASU?player to ever earn the preseason recognition. ?Tanner Jenkins was also on the list in 2006. Castilaw was a 2010 Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection after starting the final 11 games of the season.
LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LIST: Senior linebacker Demario Davis is the fifth player in school to be named to the Lombardi Award Watch List, issued to the top college lineman at the end of the season. Davis, a 2010 First Team All-Sun Belt choice, joins Alex Carrington (2009), Matt Mandich (2008), Tanner Jenkins (2006) and Garry Johnson?(2001 and 2002) as A-State players that have been named to the award's watch list.
BILETNIKOFF AWARD WATCH LIST: Senior wide receiver Dwayne Frampton is the first player in school history to ever be named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for the nation's top receiver. Frampton finished his junior season with the second most receptions (69) and seventh most receiving yards (738) in school history.
PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT RECOGNITION: Sixteen different ASU?players have been named to at least one of the major preseason publication's preseason All-Sun Belt Conference teams. The Red Wolves have at least one player on a preseason all-conference squad at 12 different positions, including quarterback (Ryan Aplin), running back (Derek Lawson), wide receiver (Dwayne Frampton, Allen Muse, Taylor Stockemer), center (Tom Castilaw), offensive tackle (James Williams), defensive tackle (Dorvus Woods, Amos Draper), linebacker (Demario?Davis, Nathan Herrold), defensive end (Brandon Joiner), linebacker (Demario?Davis), cornerback (Darron Edwards), safety (Kelcie McCray) and punt returner (Rod Hall).
TOP PRODUCERS ON OFFENSE RETURN: The Red Wolves return their leading passer, top five rushers and three of their four most productive receivers from last year's team that finished second in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense and broke nine school records. The Red Wolves also return starting tight end Kedric Murry. While A-State graduate four of its five starting offensive linemen on last year's team, it can look to Tom Castilaw to anchor its line.
STRONG DEFENSIVE CAST: ASU?returns seven starters on defense, including four of its top six tacklers, seven players that accounted for 17.5 of its 27 sacks and five more that recorded eight of its 11 interceptions. Not included in that group is corner Darron?Edwards, who led ASU?last season with 10 pass break-ups.
REVERSE SCENARIO: ASU is in an entirely different situation at special teams than it was a year ago at this time. With the exception of deep snapper, the Red Wolves had no players with game experience filling any of its special teams positions entering the 2010 season. Now, ASU?had to fill its deep snapper position, but returned its leaders at every other spot.