ASU win home opener of Malzahn era

JONESBORO- It was not that special of a night. Arkansas State's failures on the special teams -- 14 points given to Memphis and a missed field goal -- almost ruined the big festive first night of Gus Malzahn football for a crowd of 28,041 at the newly named Liberty Bank Stadium.

JONESBORO-

It was not that special of a night.

Arkansas State's failures on the special teams -- 14 points given to Memphis and a missed field goal -- almost ruined the big festive first night of Gus Malzahn football for a crowd of 28,041 at the newly named Liberty Bank Stadium.

But the Red Wolves(1-1) rallied twice and squeezed out a 33-28 victory on a night when they dominated the offense but special teams snafus almost did 'em in.

Gus Malzahn Press Conference after Memphis Game from James Bryant on Vimeo.

Memphis scored when Tevin Jones recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in the second half and Wynton McMinton pounced on one in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

"We made some mistakes on the special teams but we will get the corrected,'' said Malzahn.

"But I am proud of the kids and they way they fought back. They did not quit.''

For ASU, that is two straight over the Tigers and four victories in their last five meetings. The teams end a two-year home-and-home series at Memphis next fall.

It was nothing like last year's 47-3 thumping the Red Wolves handed Memphis on the same turf. That one was over by halftime with the Red Wolves leading . This one was Memphis 28, A-State 27 at halftime.

A year later, this contest was not settled until a final ASU drive, sparked by David Oku's running, that did not produce pointed but ran off 5 minutes and 11 seconds and covered 81 yards. Oku, who said in the postgame press conference he emailed Malzhan about coming here, gained 45 of his 130 yards on the final drive.

"I was wanting them to give me the ball,'' said Oku.

Memphis got the ball at its 14 with 11 seconds remaining.

Trailing 21-17 at halftime, ASU gained the lead on Freddy Jackson's 1-yard run with 7:59 left in the third quarter.

But about 4 minutes later, J.D. McKissic fumbled a punt and Memphis recovered in the end zone. The extra point regained the lead at 28-24.

The Red Wolves trimmed it to 28-27 on Brian Davis' 25-yard field goal with 43 second left in the third quarter.

Oku scored on a 1-yard run with 6:31 left to put ASU up 33-28. A try for two failed.

Memphis reached the ASU 44, where it punted and freshman Rocky Hayes, just transferred to offense this week, called for a fair catch at the 5 with 5:22 left. 11 plays later they handed the ball over to the Tigers.

It was a shaky first half for the Red Wolves, who never caught up after the Tigers took The Opening possession and drove 77 yards on seven plays for a quick touchdown. Alan Cross grabbed an 8-yard pass from Jacob Karam less than three minutes into the game.

ASU answered with a 23-yard Davis field goal that made it 7-3.

The blocked punt TD, scored by Jones, gave the Tigers a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. Jackson, who rushed for 38 yards, scored the first of his two TDs on a 1-yard run and Davis' extra point made it 14-10.

Keiwone Malone scored on a 41-yard pass from Jacob Karam as Memphis built a 21-10 right before the half. The Red wolves responded with a 42-yard pass from Ryan Aplin to Josh Jarboe with 3:18 left in the half.

This one was close only on the scoreboard. ASU had 619 yards offense, 317 rushing and 302 passes. Oku gained 131, Aplin had 73 yards rushing and was 23 of 43 yard passing.

McKissic caught eight for 99 and Jarboe had six for 101 yards.

Hayes, a freshman from Heflin, Ala, was moved to offense on Tuesday and gained 68 yards on four carries.

"He is gonna be one of the fastest guys on the field,'' said Malzhan. "We had to get him involved."

On defense, Ryan Carrethers was in on 10 tackles with Nathan Herrold nine, Chaz Scales and Cole Lorigan eight each. Tim Starson had 2.5 tackles for losses.