MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (11/19/2011) — The Arkansas State Red Wolves clinched at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship and a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl with a 45-19 victory over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Saturday afternoon at Floyd Stadium.
The GoDaddy.com Bowl will be played Jan. 8 in Mobile, Ala. With the victory, the Red Wolves improved to 9-2 overall and a perfect 7-0 in SBC action. Arkansas State is just the third school in SBC history to start 7-0 in league play.
Led by 294 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Ryan Aplin, 141 yards receiving on 10 catches from wideout Dwayne Frampton and a season-best 85 yards and a touchdown from running back Jermaine Robertson, the Red Wolves' offense rolled up 536 yards on the night. Arkansas State's defense held MTSU's offense, which averaged 432 yards on the season, to 299, including just 68 in the second half. The ASU defense was led by defensive backs Tausean Holmes and Sterling Young with seven tackles each. Defensive lineman Brandon Joiner added four tackles and a quarterback sack to bring his season sack total to 11.5, which leads the SBC this season.
The Red Wolves held a one-game lead over Western Kentucky heading into Saturday's game, and can clinch the league title outright with loss by WKU in either of its final two games, or an ASU victory over Troy in the Dec. 3 regular-season finale.
"I am extremely proud of this football team for what we have accomplished this season," said ASU head coach Hugh Freeze. "To come here and grab a share of the conference title on the road was very tough and we are very appreciative of the many fans who made the trip over here to support us. We are also very happy to accept an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. It's a great reward for this program and our fans, and I couldn't be more thrilled. We realize we still have one game left in the regular season and we want to finish strong at home when Troy comes to town in two weeks."
Arkansas State wasted no time in getting on the board. Just three plays and 44 seconds into the opening drive, Aplin hit Frampton down the left sideline for a 26-yard touchdown pass, and holder Neely Sullivent hooked up with Nathan Herrold on the two-point conversion for thequick 8-0 ASU advantage.
Middle Tennessee turned a blocked punt into a safety with 5:42 remaining in the first quarter to cut the Red Wolves' advantage to 8-2, but the ASU defense helped set up the next Arkansas State touchdown when linebacker DeMario Davis recovered a MTSU fumble caused by Tausean Holmes at the Blue Raider 19. Two plays later, Aplin found tight end Anthony Kincy alone across the middle for a 21-yard scoring strike. Placekicker Brian Davis added the extra point to stretch the A-State lead to 15-2 with 44 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Arkansas State added an 8-yard touchdown run from running back Frankie Jackson midway through the second quarter, then tacked on a 24-yard field goal from Davis with 5:54 remaining in the half to go up 25-2. Middle Tennessee countered with a 1-yard touchdown run from Benny Cunningham just over two minutes later to cut the ASU lead to 25-9.
A pair of Arkansas State turnovers led to two more MTSU scores before halftime. The Blue Raiders took advantage of a fumble from Jackson to set up a 26-yard field goal, and an interception of an Aplin pass with less than a minute to go before the break led to a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Murphy to wide receiver Sancho McDonald and trimmed the ASU lead to 25-19.
Arkansas State would not allow the Blue Raiders to complete the comeback in the second half, however, as the Red Wolves' defense held MTSU scoreless and the offense tacked on 20 points to put the game away.
Jackson scored on a two-yard run on the Red Wolves first possession of the second half, a 30-yard run from Robertson made it 39-19 with 3:49 to go in the third quarter, and Aplin closed out the scoring with a two-yard run midway through the final quarter.
The Red Wolves will now try to complete their sweep through the Sun Belt Conferencewhen they close out the regular season Dec. 3 at home against Troy. Kickoff at ASU Stadium is set for 2:00 p.m.
Kickoff for the GoDaddy.com Bowl is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Tickets for the GoDaddy.com Bowl are priced at $45 and are available now by clicking on the "Bowl Central" logo at the top of the ASU Athletics website, AStateRedWolves.com or by calling the ASU Ticket Office beginning Monday at 870-972-2781 or 888-ASU-FANS.
ARKANSAS STATE POSTGAME NOTES at MIDDLE TENNESSEE, NOV. 19, 2011
Arkansas State accepted an official invitation to compete in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 8, 2012. The last time ASU competed in a bowl game was 2005 when it played in the New Orleans Bowl.
Arkansas State secured at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship.
ASU holds its best record through 11 games since 1986 when it was 9-1-1.
ASU has nine wins in a season for the first time since 1986.
ASU now holds its first ever 7-0 record as a member of any conference.
ASU has its first seven-gameconference winning streak since 1985-86.
ASU is just the third school to ever win its first seven Sun Belt Conference games.
ASU extended its winning streak to 8 games, its longest since 1986.
ASU claimed its fourth road victory of the season, its most since 1987.
ASU extended its road winning streak to four games – its longest since 1975.
ASU picked up its first ever victory over Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Team captains were seniors Tom Castilaw (C), Demario Davis (LB) and Neely Sullivent (P).
ASU opened up a double-figure lead in the first quarter for the fourth consecutive game in a row. Including Middle Tennessee, ASU has now outscored its last 4 opponents 44-2 in the first quarter.
ASU recorded its sixth victory this year by a double-figure margin – the most since 1987.
Arkansas State recorded over 500 yards of total offense for the fourth time this season.
Arkansas State posted over 200 yards rushing for the fifth time this season and improved to 5-0 in those games.
ASU recorded 15 first downs by passing, giving it 138 for the year to break the school record.
ASU has now scored 30 points in a game seven times this season, including the last five in a row. The last time ASU scored 30-plus in at least 7 games was 1951 (10 times).
Jr. QB Ryan Aplin threw his 16th and 17th TD passes of the year, giving him the second most in school history for a single season. Aplin has now thrown at least one TD in eight straight games.
Aplin recorded 25 completions, giving him 578 to break his own school record for completions in a season.
Aplin passed for over 200 yards for the 10th time this year and 20th time of his career.
Sr. WR Dwayne Frampton recorded his 5th TD reception this year, moving him into a tie for the 6th most in school history for a single season. He now has 11 TD receptions for his career, which ties the 4th most in ASU history.
Frampton broke the school record for single-season receptions, ending the game with 10 receptions to give him 80 for his career.
Frampton recorded 100 receiving yards in a game for the 4th time this season and 5th time of his career. His 141 receiving yards were the second most of his career.
Frampton has extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 23 – every game of his career at A-State.
Jr. TE Anthony Kincy recorded his first career TD reception at ASU.
Redshirt Fr. RB Frankie Jackson rushed for a career-high 2 TD's to give him 6 for the season, the second most on the team.
Jr. WR Josh Jarboe took over seventh place for the most receptions in a season (48) by an ASU player.
Sr. RB Jermaine Robertson rushed for a season-high 85 yards, including a 30-yard TD run that was his longest rush of the year.
Middle Tennessee was the fifth opponent this season ASU has held under 20 points – the most since 2002. It has now held four of its last six opponents below 20 points as well.
Middle Tennessee was the fifth opponent that ASU has held under 300 yards total offense. ASU has held 8 opponents under 350 yards, including MT.
Middle Tennessee is the sixth opponent this season that ASU has held under 100 yards rushing as a team.
Sr. DE Brandon Joiner has taken over second place for most sacks in a single season by an ASU player with 11.5 to his credit. He also moved into a tie for the third most single-season sacks in Sun Belt Conference history.
Sr. LB Demario Davis recorded his first fumble recovery this season, but the third of his career.
Jr. DB Tausean Holmes recorded a season-high seven tackles, including a career-high 3 TFL. He also recorded his first forced fumble this year, but the second of his career.
Soph. K Brian Davis finished the game with eight points, giving him 85 for the season to rank third all-time for points by kicking.
Jr. LB Nathan Herrold recorded his first career reception on a 2-point conversion after ASU's first TD of the game.