Justice Hansen tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Kendall Sanders and Warren Wand ran for a pair of scores as Arkansas State (5-4, 5-0) defeated New Mexico State 41-22 Saturday afternoon in Jonesboro.
The victory was the Red Wolves’ 14th straight Sun Belt Conference and set up a battle for first place on Thursday with Troy. A-State (5-4, 5-0) and Troy (8-1, 5-0) share the lead after the Trojans defeated Appalachian State 28-24 Saturday afternoon in Alabama.
The Red Wolves built a 27-3 lead and maintained that cushion while winning their third straight against the Aggies (2-7, 1-4).
Hansen and Kendall Sanders connected on a 40-yard score and Money Hunter returned an interception 46 yards for another score as the Red Wolves took a 13-0 lead. J.D. Houston hit the second extra point after missing the first.
The Aggies made it 13-3 then Warren Wand scored on a 3-yard run and Blake Mack caught a 35-year flea flicker pass from Cameron Echols-Luper with 1:36 left in the half for the 27-3 lead.
Another field goal made it 37-6 at the half.
Sanders took a short pass from Hansen and turned it into a 41-yard score early in the third quarter.
After an unsuccessful onside kick, the Aggies showed life, scoring a touchdown and picking up a safety when Johnston White was tackled in the end zone with 7:29 left in the third.
Wand added his second score on a 2-yard run with 1:02 left in the third.
--After a bad first series and a loss on first down in their second series, Warren Wand broke a 46-yard run to get the offense rolling. Sanders scored to capped the five play on a 40-yard pass.
--Money Hunter returned an interception 46 yards for a non-offensive touchdown for the Red Wolves. It also was Hunter’s fourth of his career, setting a Sun Belt Conference record.
--A little trickeration. Echols-Luper, lining up out wide, caught a screen pass then hit a wide open Blake Mack near the end zone for a 35-yard score.
--The Red Wolves have won 14 straight Sun Belt league games and five straight this season to climb above the .500 mark.
--The meeting Thursday between the Red Wolves and Troy will be the first meeting of 5-0 teams in Sun Belt history.
--NM State junior running back Larry Rose turned in a big day, rushing for 168 yards and catching 2 passes for 31 yards.
--Total offense ended up close -- 453 for A-State and 438 for the Aggies. New Mexico State ran 85 plays to the Red Wolves’ 67.
--Damon Foncham had two punts inside the 20 and a long kick of 52 yards.
--Sanders turned in a career day with 6 catches for 101 yards.
--Javon Rolland-Jones had a season best 3 sacks. He also had 4 tackles for loss.
--The REd Wolves allowed a safety for the first time since 2012.
--Both teams had 10 tackles for loss, but A-State gave the Aggies 45 yards in losses while just 21 for the A-State.
Blake Anderson: We found a way to win and I thought a lot of guys played well. It was kind of what we expected from their offense and we just kind of wanted to bend and not break. I know Joe was frustrated we gave up more more than we should but we found a way to stiffen our necks and created ways to get turnovers and found a way to stop them.”