A rough start at USC followed by a missed upset chance against Mizzou and a rout at Toledo set a negative tone for the first third of the AState season but many fans seem to have missed the next six games.
Arkansas State rallied from a 1-3 start improving to 7-3 and 6-0 in the Sun Belt and now are on pace for a season of memorable success.
The Red Wolves with wins at New Mexico State Saturday and then at home on December 5th can post the first 9 win regular season since Gus Malzahn coached at AState in 2012 and the first perfect season in conference play since Hugh Freeze’s 2011 campaign.
Finishing the job one game at a time gives the Red Wolves the opportunity to move this season into historic territory.
AState has clinched a fifth consecutive winning season, the first time Arkansas State has put together five consecutive winning season since 1913-1917.
The Red Wolves are guaranteed no worse than a share of the league title with one more win and that would guarantee a bowl berth. As a practical matter the Red Wolves are likely already guaranteed a bowl given the number of teams expected to get bowl eligible, but locking it down is never a bad thing. A bowl berth this season would make this the first time AState has earned post-season play in five consecutive seasons.
While no one realistically expected Fredi Knighten to be the best throwing QB in the league, his performance at USC was truly bad and against Missouri he had struggles as well prior to his injury, even with the Red Wolves in position to upset Mizzou.
Fans focused on Knighten and many missed how the 2015 Red Wolves had set themselves apart from the 2014 edition. At USC, the second, third, and fourth drives of the game the Trojans gained a combined 77 yards, were forced to punt twice and turned the ball over on downs once. The notable series came when USC faced third and two and a handoff to Tre Madden produced no gain. They tried Madden again and he was held to one yard. An unthinkable result even against a much weaker team last year. Against Missouri, the Red Wolves picked up the first three of the 21 interceptions gained so far this season.
Against ULM, Knighten threw five TD passes and became the fourth AState player to post 40 or more career TD passes in AState history. His 252 yards passing in the first quarter was the most passing yards in a game this year.
The Red Wolves have become a master of find a way to win since the Toledo game. They’ve done it with strong rushing, other times with defense and exploiting short field, and even done it throwing the deep ball. The current squad has proven to be entertaining and versatile in finding a way to win.
You can catch Saturday’s game at NMSU on ESPN College Extra (available on Direct, Uverse and Verizon FIOS), on the Altitude Sports Network (available in many sports packages) and ESPN3. Then watch the Red Wolves wrap up the regular season on Senior Day, December 5 at Centennial Bank Stadium. The early forecast is a high of 57 and partly cloudy skies.