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Breaking the Cycle: Arkansas State beats Kent State 17-13 in Bowl

ASU claims first win over top-25 team and first bowl win in three tries

Published: Monday, January 7, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 10:01

Bowl Game 1

Ashley Helliwell/The Herald

Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith is pursued by Nathan Herrold during Sunday night's bowl game.


Ashley Helliwell/The Herald

Interim head coach John Thompson being interviewed by ESPN following the Red Wolves victory over Kent State. The 17-13 win was Thompson's fourth as a head coach.

Bowl MVP

Ashley Helliwell/The Herald

Ryan Aplin posing with spokesperson and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick following the Red Wolves win over Kent State.


Mobile, Ala -

            On 4th and 8 from the 25 and with one minute left in the game, Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith came up short.

            One minute later the Arkansas State Red Wolves defeated the 25th ranked Kent State Flash to be crowned the 2013 Bowl Champions. The game gave the Sun Belt champions their first bowl win in three tries since rejoining the Football Bowl Subdivision level as well as the school’s first win over a top-25 program.

            “From a game stand point, that was a good one. A real good one,” said interim head coach John Thompson following the game. “Our guys stepped up there with a minute to go, we got to make a play and we made plays. It wasn’t anything but just ball players. It wasn’t calls or anything special at all.”

            ASU’s sophomore linebacker Qushaun Lee put a stop to Keith’s desperation run, wrapping up the senior quarterback from Little Rock three yards shy of the first down marker, allowing the Red Wolves (10-3, 7-1) to run out the clock on their second straight bowl game in Mobile, a complete reversal from their loss last season against Northern Illinois.

            “I was really fired up. They kept saying that this was the last game and the last chance for the seniors, so we tried to go out with a bang,” said Lee, who was named the Defensive MVP.

            Lee finished the game with 13 total tackles, including the game saver, as well as two broken up passes.

            After ASU opened the game with a punt, the Flash’s opening 67-yard drive was stifled at the one-yard line and ended when Spencer threw to a receiver at the goal line, only for the ball to be tipped by Lee and into the open arms of senior linebacker Nathan Herrold.

            The turnover was Herrold’s team leading fourth of the season and gave ASU the ball at its own 20 with 6:52 left in the quarter. The Red Wolves resulting drive ended after nine plays with the first of seven punts from Ryan Wilbourn.

            Beginning with 8:58 left in the first half, the Red Wolves finally put themselves into contention, marching 60 yards in nine plays to score with 5:40 left. Junior David Oku ended the drive by running up the middle untouched for 12 yards, giving him his 16th rushing touchdown of the season.

            Brian Davis’ extra point tied the game up at seven and made him the only ASU player to score 100 points in a season by kicking.

            That scoring drive marked the beginning of a hot streak for Aplin who began the game 3 for 8 through the air facing non-stop pressure from the KSU defense.

            “We had been off for 36 days and that makes it harder for an offense to keep its rhythm,” Thompson said.

            The senior then threw 10 straight completions as the Red Wolves put together consecutive scoring drives, the second going for 88 yards over nine plays in just two minutes and 19 seconds.

            On a 2nd and 1 from the Flash’s 21, Aplin bootlegged to the right and found a wide-open J.D. McKissic around the 10-yard line who ran in for the go-ahead score with 1:13 left in the half.

            Aplin finished the game 21 of 30 for 213 yards, while also being sacked twice in one drive that started on the Kent State 39 after one Flash player was penalized twice on their touchdown play.

            The native of Tampa, Fla. was named the game’s MVP and thanked his former ASU head coach Steve Roberts, who was present for the game after departing as the Red Wolves head coach following the 2010 season.

            “I actually got to see him this week,” Aplin said from the same podium he spoke from following the lost to NIU. “He’s the only guy that gave me a shot out of high school. I would definitely not be in this situation if it wasn’t for him.”

            Aplin finishes career with more than 25 records and broke the Sun Belt’s total offense record. But the senior thanked his team mates on the other side of the ball for the team’s success.

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