Red Wolves Face Ragin Cajuns Saturday in Sun Belt Opener

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ON TAP: After kicking off its season at No. 22 Auburn last week, Arkansas State remains on the road this week with a game Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette to begin Sun Belt Conference play. Saturday's game will be televised by the Sun Belt Network, while every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area and the live radio broadcast can be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic website (
THE PRINCIPALS: Both Arkansas State and Louisiana are coming off season-opening setbacks against a nationally-ranked team from the SEC.  The Red Wolves dropped a 52-26 decision at then-ranked No. 22 Auburn, while the Ragin' Cajuns were handed a 55-7 defeat at the hands of then-ranked No. 23 Georgia. Saturday's game between ASU and UL will be first head-to-head game of the season between two Sun Belt Conference opponents.
HEAD COACH STEVE ROBERTS: Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts is in his ninth year at Arkansas State after leading the Red Wolves to the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Championship and to bowl eligible seasons three of the last five years. During his first eight seasons as the Red Wolves' head coach, he guided ASU to 41 wins for its most over an eight-year span at the school since 1985-1992. Roberts was named the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. Under Roberts, the Red Wolves have had 70 All-Sun Belt Conference selections, a Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, SBC Offensive Player of the Year, two SBC Defensive Players of the Year and an SBC Newcomer of the Year.
DOUBLE DUTY: A-State head coach Steve Roberts is one of just 12 coaches in the FBS that in addition to handling responsibilities as a head coach, also works as a position coach. Roberts has coached special teams since his arrival at ASU in 2002. Below is a list of head coaches in the FBS who also are position coaches:
ASU, Steve Roberts (Special Teams)
Ball State, Stan Parrish (Quarterbacks)
BYU, Bronco Mendenhall (Def. Tackles)
UConn, Randy Edsall (Safeties)
Kent State, Doug Martin (Quarterbacks)
Louisiana, Rickey Bustle (PK, LS and PR)
UL Monroe, Todd Berry (Quarterbacks)
Nevada, Chris Ault (Quarterbacks)
San Diego St., Brady Hoke (Defensive Line)
Tulsa, Todd Graham (Safeties)
Utah State, Gary Andersen (Def. Tackles)
Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer (Kickers)
ROBERTS CLIMBING VICTORIES LADDER: Through his first eight-plus seasons as the Red Wolves head coach, Steve Roberts already has the fifth most victories among ASU's 26 all-time head coaches with 41 wins. Larry Lacewell (1979-89) holds the record for victories with 69 and is followed by Bennie Ellender (1963-70) with 52 wins, Bill Davidson (1971-78) with 51 and Forrest England (1946-53) with 49.
ROBERTS AND ASU STADIUM: Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts has led the Red Wolves to a 29-10 record at ASU Stadium over the last eight years for .743 winning percentage. Not only that, the Red Wolves are 20-5 at ASU Stadium over the last five seasons . . . Arkansas State is 14-4 in home conference games since 2005, its only setbacks coming against Troy in 2007 and 2009, Middle Tennessee in 2006 and Louisiana-Lafayette in 2009. The Red Wolves are 20-8 in home conference games all-time under Roberts.
ROBERTS IN CLOSE GAMES: Ninth-year skipper Steve Roberts has seen numerous close games during his tenure with the Red Wolves, holding a 23-17 record in games decided by eight points or less (41 percent of all his games). Following is his record in close games:
Margin Roberts record
1 point 1-1
2 points 1-0
3 points 5-8
4 points 8-1
5 points 1-2
6 points 2-2
7 points 3-1
8 points 2-2
THE ARKANSAS STATE-LOUISIANA SERIES: Arkansas State holds an all-time record of 18-19-1 against Louisiana-Lafayette in the series that dates back to the 1953 season. As Sun Belt Conference opponents, the Ragin' Cajuns lead the series 5-3. UL Lafayette won last season's meeting in Jonesboro, 18-21, but the home team had won the previous eight meetings. Eight of the last 10 meetings have been decided by six points or less, including the last two years. Saturday's game will be the 39th meeting all-time between ASU and Louisiana-Lafayette. ASU's 38 games played against the Ragin' Cajuns ties the second most (along with Southern Illinois) against any opponent in school history. The last time A-State won at Louisiana-Lafayette it was competing as an NCAA Division I independent, defeating the Ragin' Cajuns 20-7 in 1992.
FAMILIAR FOE: While Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette have both played as members of the Sun Belt Conference since the league's inaugural football season in 2001, it is not the first time the two teams have shared a league. The Red Wolves and Ragin' Cajuns were both members of the Big West Conference from 1993 to 1995 and the Southland Conference from 1971 to 1981.
THE LAST TIME vs. THE RAGIN' CAJUNS (Jonesboro, Ark. - Nov. 7, 2009): Facing a 21-3 deficit, then-freshman quarterback Ryan Aplin came off the bench in the third quarter to rally the Arkansas State Red Wolves to within 21-18, but a late interception by Louisiana-Lafayette's Lance Kelley ended ASU's final drive and the Ragin' Cajuns held on for the 21-18 Sun Belt Conference victory at ASU Stadium.
With the Red Wolves trailing 21-3, Aplin directed a 16-play, 68-yard drive that ended with senior tailback Reggie Arnold's two-yard touchdown run with 12:39 remaining to cut the Cajun lead to 21-10.
Just over two minutes later, Aplin had the Red Wolves in the end zone again when he hooked up with freshman wideout Taylor Stockemer on a 64-yard completion to set up a five-yard scoring run from Arnold. Aplin scrambled in for the two-point conversion to put the Red Wolves within a field goal at 21-18 with 10:10 remaining.
Arkansas State took over again at their own 33 with 5:07 to play and drove to the Ragin' Cajun 39 before Kelley stepped in front of Aplin's pass for the interception with 2:52 remaining, and ULL was able to run out the clock to preserve the win.
The Cajuns jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the game, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback Blaine Gautier in the first quarter and a seven-yard scoring run from quarterback Chris Masson with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Arkansas State got on the board with a 36-yard field goal from senior Josh Arauco with 36 seconds to play before halftime to make it 14-3 at the break.
Louisiana-Lafayette extended its lead to 21-3 when Masson scored on a two-yard run with 5:48 to play in the third.
Aplin led the ASU offense on the day with 154 yards, completing 8-of-14 passes for 147 yards while rushing for seven more. Senior cornerback Cordarious Mingo notched a career-high nine tackles to lead the ASU defense.
JENNINGS HONORED: Senior safety M.D. Jennings was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance against nationally-ranked Auburn. Jennings posted double-figure tackles (11), including a career-high 1.5 tackles for loss, in a game for the fourth time of his career. He also recorded his second career forced fumble, fourth fumble recovery of his career and his third career sack.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: ASU is 6-3 all-time and 5-3 under head coach Steve Roberts in Sun Belt Conference openers. The Red Wolves fell to Troy 30-27 in their first league game last season, a year after defeating Middle Tennessee 31-14 in their conference opener. ASU will play Louisiana in its SBC opener for the first time ever.
EARLY START TO CONFERENCE PLAY: Prior to this season, the earliest A-State had ever played a Sun Belt Conference opponent was the third game of the season (Troy in 2009). A-State has not played three of its first four games against league foes since the 1995 season when it was a member of the Big West Conference. ASU's next three games include outings against two of the top four teams in the conference's preseason coaches poll (UL Lafayette, 4th; Troy, 2nd). ASU is involved in the only Sun Belt Conference games being played both this week and next, facing UL Saturday and ULM on Sept. 18.
AN ARKANSAS STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . give A-State its first road victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in 18 years . . . improve A-State's record in Sun Belt Conference openers to 7-3 . . . put ASU up one conference victory over every league opponent . . . give ASU its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference victory dating back to last season.
NEW OFFENSE SHINES: Arkansas State's new offense put up some impressive numbers in the Red Wolves' season debut against nationally-ranked Auburn last week. ASU hung 26 points on the Tigers, its second most against a top-25 opponent since 2002, and piled up 366 yards of total offense that was the third highest among all SBC teams last week.
PASSING GRADE: A-State posted 323 passing yards against Auburn, the 10th most in school history and the most recorded by an ASU team since recording a school-record 418 against Memphis in 2004. The Red Wolves also attempted 49 passes that tied the fourth most in school history, while its 33 completions fell only one short of the school record 34 against Jacksonville State in 1995.
IN THE ZONE: The Arkansas State offense was perfect in the red zone during its first game, scoring on all four opportunities against Auburn. ASU scored three touchdowns and kicked one field goal to end the game perfect in those situations.
TACKLE BOX: Eleven ASU players either tied or topped their career high for tackles in a game last week against Auburn. While five of those players were competing in their first game as an ASU player, six were returning players. Among the six returning players were Tausean Holmes (7 tackles), Dorvus Woods (4 tackles), Najel Byrd (4 tackles), Graham Bates (3 tackles), Chaz Scales (3 tackles), Tim Starson (2 tackles).
APLIN PUTS UP CAREER-BEST NUMBERS: Ryan Aplin posted the best passing numbers of his young career against No. 22 Auburn. The sophomore quarterback completed 28-of-42 passes for 278 yards, all career highs, and one touchdown to help lead Arkansas State to 366 yards of total offense. Aplin's 28 completions tied the third most in school history for a single game and are the most by an ASU quarterback since 2004. He completed a 61-yard pass, the second longest of his career, to set up his 10-yard touchdown pass that gave ASU a 6-0 lead. He directed scoring drives that started from ASU's 18, 26 and 45 yard lines, as well as Auburn's 27.
IT'S GOOD: Playing in his first collegiate game, true freshman kicker Brian Davis accounted for a team-high eight points against No. 22 Auburn. Davis was successful on both his field goal attempts and made 2-of-3 extra points, his only miss getting blocked. Davis' first field goal was from 26 yards out and pulled ASU within 28-16 of the Tigers, while his final field goal from 41 yards brought ASU's total score to 26 points.
NEW FACES: Twenty-one players competed in their first career game at A-State last week at Auburn, including three true freshmen, eight redshirt freshmen, two sophomores, six junior-college transfers (all juniors) and two juniors . . . . . Additionally, six players started their first career game at ASU, including Dorvus Woods (DL), Justin Robertson (DE), Walter Moody (CB), Darron Edwards (CB) and Tausean Holmes (DB) on defense and Anthony Robinson (WR) on offense . . . . . . ASU had at least one player attempt his first career punt (Neely Sullivent and Dean Gericke), first career kickoff (Bobby Zalud) and first career extra point and field goal (Brian Davis). Tausean Holmes, Roderick Hall and Dwayne Frampton all returned their first career kicks and/or punts as well.
96th SEASON UNDER WAY: Arkansas State kicked off its 96th season of football last Saturday. ASU holds a 412-444-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and has played in seven bowl games. A-State did not field a football team from 1942-44 due to World War II. ASU also didn't have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.
STRESSING ACADEMICS: The Arkansas State football team won the Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Award for the 2009-10 academic year, marking the seventh time over the last eight years it has accomplished the feat.
THE TOP 25: Auburn was the 12th ASU opponent ranked among the nation's top 25 teams at the time of a game with the Red Wolves under head coach Steve Roberts. Following is a list of ranked opponents that ASU has played under Roberts:
No. 2 Alabama (2008), L, 0-35
No. 4 Texas (2007) L, 13-21
No. 4 LSU (2004) L, 3-53
No. 6 Auburn (2006) L, 0-27
No. 13 Iowa (2009) L, 21-24
No. 16 Virginia Tech (2002) L, 7-63
No. 17 Missouri (2004) L, 20-52
No. 18 Nebraska (2009) L, 9-38
No. 22 Auburn (2010) L, 26-52
No. 25 Memphis (2004) L, 35-47
No. 25 Mississippi (2002) L, 17-52
SENIOR RECOGNITION: Every year at ASU's Football Media Day, head coach Steve Roberts gives his seniors a chance to address those in attendance at the press conference. This year's 21 seniors are: Jeff Blake, Tom Castilaw, Sifa Etu, Adam Gaston, Derious Glover, Bryan Hall, Lucious Henderson, Drew Hilton, Tyson Holligan, M.D. Jennings, Alex Kautai, Alfred Louis, Javon McKinnon, Walter Moody, Derek Newton, Dominic Padrta, Kiano Prater, Anthony Robinson, Isaiah Shepard, Jonathan White and Marquette Williams.
TEAM CAPTAINS: ASU's senior class will alternate throughout the year as team captains. The team will vote on permanent captains at the end of the year. Following is a list of captains for each game:
Auburn: Etu, Robinson, Gaston, Hall
PRESEASON ALL-SBC ACCOLADES: Three Arkansas State football players were tabbed Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference, including Defensive Player of the Year Bryan Hall, offensive lineman Derek Newton and linebacker Demario Davis.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Red Wolves are predicted to finish third in the conference according to the league's 2009 preseason coaches poll, announced July 19 as part of the Sun Belt Conference Media Days. ASU received 53 points, while first-place Middle Tennessee won the vote with 75 points.
STRONG D: Arkansas State has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference and among the top 50 teams in the nation each of the last four years in total defense. Below is a break down of ASU's defensive statistical rankings for the last four years:
Year SBC Rank National Rank YPG
2009 1 41 340.5
2008 2 46 336.5
2007 1 43 362.3
2006 2 32 309.4
NATIONAL COVERAGE: Arkansas State will play at least two nationally televised games for the second consecutive year in 2010. The Red Wolves will catch Middle Tennessee at home on Nov. 2 in a game televised by ESPN2 and Navy on the road on Nov. 20 in a game televised by CBS College Sports. Prior to last season, the last time ASU had played a nationally televised game was in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
TELEVISION TIME: Arkansas State currently has seven televised games scheduled for the regular season, the second most in school history. A-State played eight regular-season games on television last season for the record. The Red Wolves have three league games (UL Lafayette, ULM, FAU) set to be televised on the Sun Belt Network, while the Auburn game will be carried by Fox Sports South, the Troy game by the Troy/ISP Network, the Middle Tennessee game by ESPN2 and the Navy game by CBS College Sports.
TURF INSTALLATION COMPLETED: Installation of a new and state-of-the-art field turf surface inside ASU stadium was completed as scheduled after a final inspection of the project was conducted in late July. The field is in practice and playing condition for the beginning of the Red Wolves fall camp today. The new GeoSurfaces field turf is slightly thicker than the previous product, which was installed when ASU originally transitioned from a grass field to an artificial playing surface prior to the 2006 season. The field also has a sand base for the first time in addition to the "no fly-out" rubber installed. The field also has a new look with two new Red Wolves logos, white Sun Belt Conference logos and black trim around the outside of the playing field.