This is not 2012, but there were a lot of almost eerie reminders of what happened in the 34-20 victory over FIU a year ago that took place in sweet Mobile, Ala., Saturday night.
In both games, ASU limped onto the road after coming off a stunning conference loss at home. A year ago Western Kentucky handled the Red Wolves a 26-13 loss in a game A-State led 13-0 at halftime.
From there, with a 2-3 record and an 0-1 conference mark, they made the trip to FIU to face the preseason favorite Panthers.
ASU took its opening drive down the field and missed a 43-yard field goal. The next three drives produced nothing. J.D. McKissic scored on a 74-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Aplin that gave the Red Wolves a 7-3 lead. FIU regains the lead with a little more than 4 minutes left and ASU followed with a quick possession and punt deep into FIU territory.
Was it there where the 2012 championship season found its footing? Passing from the end zone, Sterling Young intercepted and returned it to the FIU 7. Three plays later the Red Wolves had a 14-10 lead.
The second half was no contest.
Again it was Sterling Young to the rescue. The junior safety playing in his home state intercepted USA in the end zone, stopping a scoring threat that many felt was about to put the game out of reach. Instead, Young's play kept it 6-0.
From there, an offense that had been mistake-prone found life. ASU drove 80-yards and Adam Kennedy capped it on a 12-yard run. Suddenly it was ASU 7, USA 6.
USA responds on its next drive and regains the lead at 13-7.
Red Wolves responded with a drive that ended with Brian Davis' impressive 50-yard field goal. With almost all of the fourth quarter left it was 13-10 Jags.
USAU builds it to 16-10.
ASU takes over with 9:58 left on its 25. Sirgregory Thornton scored from the 3. ASU leads again at 17-16.
But still there was 6:29 left. And all the Jags needed was a field goal.
After possession swaps, the Jags got a final shot with 3:17 left. Paul Jones' best punt of the season was downed at the USA 9.
The Jags reached the 39, but two incomplete passes ended things.
It was not only Young's interception that brought back memories of the FIU game. But it was the running of Kennedy, who said post-game that the coaches told him he needed to run. And he did. And not out of necessity of broken down pass protection.
Look at the QB rushing numbers: Kennedy had 16 carries for 65 yards (that includes 25 yards in losses mostly from sacks) and Fredi Knighten added 54 yards on 10 carries. Combined they were 21 of 25 passing (AK 15 of 17 and Knighten 6 of 8) for 160 yards.
Another thing of note, ASU played without defensive linemen Dexter Blackmon and Amos Draper. Marion redshirt freshman Darrius Rosser got his first start and recorded the team's lone sack.
Up next is a trip to Monroe that will not be easy. The Warhawks are chasing UL-Lafayette for the league lead and can't afford another SBC loss if they want their season finale with the Cajuns to mean anything.
A-State just needs victories to reach a third straight bowl game.
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