The Arkansas State Football team needed Tuesday night's game with Louisiana Lafayette to be a statement game.
With their proverbial backs against the wall in Sun Belt play before a nationally televised audience and an announced crowd of over 19, 000, that is exactly the type of game that the Red Wolves turned in enroute to playing their very best game of the 2012 season in Coach Gus Malzahn era defeating the home town Cajuns 50-27.
One sports writer said earlier in the day Tuesday in his keys to the game that Arkansas State needed to punch ULL in the mouth early to gain confidence and to take a rowdy home crowd out of the game.
The ASU team must have read the story.
Arkansas State jumped out early and often scoring on every offensive possession during the game with the exception of three times the entire night.
Another key to the game was that Ryan Aplin needed to have a Ryan Aplin type game, that the Red Wolves offense needed come out attacking, boy did they.
Aplin and senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer established a great on the field chemistry with each other last season, that also returned here Tuesday night, with the senior signal caller finding one of his favorite pass catcher on two big plays during
During ASU's second offensive possession Aplin finds Josh Jarboe for a big 46 yard pass reception, to take Arkansas State down to the Cajun's 40 yard line. David Oku picked up six yards on the next play giving ASU a second and four at the 34.
Aplin picks up the first down on the next play on a 10 yard keeper and Red Wolf fans across the country were witnessing the beginning of a great offensive night for ASU.
The Red Wolves offense picked up another first down on a pass to true freshman Rocky Hayes and got the football down to the six yard line with third and goal before stalling to get it into the end zone. ASU Davis gets his second field goal of the night for an early 6-0 lead with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter. .
Many AStateNation fans probably feared the fact that ASU couldn't get the ball into the end zone in the Red Zone would end up costing them dearly, that ended up not being the case.
Arkansas State, who had not been very good in the kicking game at times, used the strong leg of true freshman Luke Ferguson in the first half to put the ball into the corner of the end zone two out of three attempts. This didn't allow the Cajuns to get good field position nor a return in the first part of the game.
Malzahn said after the big win that his team was finally coming together and had put together their best game of the year in all three phases.
"I'm extremely proud of this football team," Malzahn said. "I have been saying that our best football was a head of us, I could tell that we were close to putting together a complete game. You could tell the light was starting to come on for us, that we are beginning to gel as a team."
With a 6-0 lead, the ASU defense arose to the occasion holding the home team to a three and out and setting up perhaps the turning point of the ballgame.
ULL's Head Football Coach Mark Hudspeth decided to go for a fake punt in the Cajun's own territory and the Red Wolves special teams responded by forcing an incomplete pass and giving ASU their best field position of the night.
Arkansas State's offense started out slow on its next possession, but stormed back to score to give the visiting ASU team an early 13-0 lead,
Aplin was sacked on the first play of the drive for six yards, a false start gave the Red Wolves second down and 21 yards.
Aplin found Oku out of the backfield for a 13 yard pickup setting up a third and nine situation for ASU.
Aplin finds Oku again, picking up the first down. ULL fans thought ASU received a bad spot on the mark by the referees, but the play stood after the review.
Aplin found Stockemer again, this time for 21 yards to set up Arkansas State on the Cajun's 11 yard line.
ASU completely dominated the first quarter of play, having eight first downs to ULL's one, Aplin came out early to prove the Red Wolves were going to be a team to be reckoned with going 10-13 for 141 yards in the first quarter.
Arkansas State time of possession in the first quarter was the best its been in the Malzahn era, with the Red Wolves holding the ball 10:36 seconds out of the 15 minute stanza.
On ULL's next possession it was the Red Wolves defense that came up with another huge play to keep the momentum swinging in the favor of ASU.
After a two yard pick up to the 33 yard line, Aplin connects with Julian Jones on a huge 33 yard touchdown, with 14:09 left in the first half, Arkansas State held a 20-0 lead.
Arkansas State had a couple of opportunities to put the home team away but had to settle for two more Brian Davis field goals, holding a 26-7 lead at the intermission.
"I thought our defense did a tremendous job early in the game, forcing them to three and outs and forcing some turnovers," Malzahn said after the game. "It allowed our offense back on the field and we took advantage of great field position."
ULL wasn't going to give up easily, after a probably fiery halftime speech from their head coach, the Cajuns responded by scoring on their next possession after the intermission.
Arkansas State responded on it's next possession, scoring on a five yard run by Oku to give ASU a commanding 33-14 lead.
"It was great to come here and establish early that we were here to play," Aplin said after the big win. "The defense did a great job getting us the ball back, the line blocked well and gave me time to throw the ball and our backs were tremendous tonight."
Arkansas State now stays in contention for their second straight Sun Belt Conference game, while possibly eliminating the Cajuns from title contention giving ULL their second loss in the conference.
"It's our goal to win out," Stockemer said after the game. "We want to repeat as Sun Belt champions, with this win we are still in it. There are a lot of football yet to be played in league play."
Arkansas State picked up their fifth win of the season and is only one game away from becoming Bowl eligible for the second straight season.