In a year when the Arkansas State Red Wolves saw their string of consecutive conference championships come to an end, no Sun Belt loss stung as much as when they fell at home to Appalachian State 37-32.
Unlike league losses to UL-Lafayette and Texas State this one was at home. And in those other two contests, the Cajuns and Bobcats took control early and the Red Wolves never could catch up. The Red Wolves had a halftime lead against App State on an unseasonably cold day in Jonesboro.
The last time these two met was a day when a lot went wrong for the Red Wolves and a lot went right for the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who got out of Jonesboro with a 37-32 victory.
“We have a heavy respect for the opponent now,’’ said Coach Blake Anderson. “I’m not sure we truly knew who they were coming in last year. We had not seen them before. They’d had a rough start but were getting better.”
Appalachian State came into the Jonesboro a year ago with a 3-game winning streak but overall was 4-5 and 3-2 in the Sun Belt.
A few minutes later things started to unravel.
With a little more than 6 minutes left in the half, linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster was called for targeting and send to the bench. In the roughly 18 minutes he played, Woodson-Luster had 5 tackles, 1 for loss.
A-State dodged a bullet when Marcus Cox fumbled into the end zone on the next play and the Red Wolves recovered. But from that point App State would go on a 30-0 run.
Right before the half, the Red Wolves had possession on its 20 with 1:02 left, leading 20-6. App State had two timeouts, but the Red Wolves tossed an incomplete pass stopping the clock to aid the Mountaineers. On fourth down, Ferguson shanked an 11-yard punt and the visitors had possession on the ASU 32 with 31 seconds left. The TD came with: 05 left and at halftime it was as 20-13 game.
“Do I think we mismanaged the game in the second quarter a year ago? Absolutely we did,’’ said Anderson. “We had an opportunity to run out the clock and had a chance to get off the field and we didn’t do it on offense. That is something we would have loved to have back. It was a 14-point swing and we did not manage it very well.”
The Mountaineers led 37-20 with 5:06 left when A-State drove to the App State 8 and was stopped on downs. The next play a fumble was recovered by Chris Stone and led to a TD pass to Darion Griswold.
An onside kick was recovered by Luke Ferguson and four plays later Johnston White caught a TD pass. The Red Wolves failed on both PATs after the late TD passes. Ferguson missed his kick on the first one and a try for two pass on the second failed. Those points could have made it a 37-34 game.
A second onside kick failed but the A-State had one more chance with 59 seconds left from its 20. Houston fumbled on the App State 41 with 22 seconds left and Mountaineers recovered.
“To be up like we were and then let is get away and they just take over the game , obviously that doesn’t taste real good,’’ said Anderson. “Losing at home doesn’t taste really good. There are a lot of things about that game but none of those have anything to do with the outcome of this one.”