Red Wolves claim conference opener
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 22:09
Opening night of the Sun Belt Conference season was one fans of the Sun Belt won’t soon forget.
Two teams arrived to Liberty Bank Stadium on Thursday night knowing one would leave in first place with their first conference win while the other would leave in last place with their first loss.
For Troy, their goal was to come in and steal a game on the road, win the first game in an opposed environment and instill some momentum going forward.
For Arkansas State, the goal was also simple: take the first step in what many are hoping to be a third straight Sun Belt Conference championship.
On a night where both teams combined for 1,153 yards of total offense, it would be a final defensive stand by the Arkansas State Red Wolves that would seal a 41-34 victory against the Troy Trojans.
A crowd of 26,012 watched as the Red Wolves (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) would rely on defense late in the game to help preserve the victory.
The Red Wolves defense created four turnovers on the night, including two critical interceptions late in the game to help preserve a back and forth affair.
“We talked about it being a fourth quarter game. There was no doubt in my mind what it would ultimately come down to. I’m proud of our defense,” Head Coach Bryan Harsin said.
As for the Red Wolves offense, it did its fair share throughout the course of the ball game.
Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy went 20 for 34 passing, racking up 282 yards in the air while also rushing for 24.
“I liked Adam’s demeanor tonight,” Harsin said. “The only thing I can say is that he’s just a football player. He’s doing great things for us. He’s willing to accept coaching throughout the game and he is willing to make adjustments for the next series.”
When asked about the team’s offensive performance as a whole, Kennedy was more than pleased.
“I thought we were balanced offensively. I thought we were great. Tonight was the first time we were balanced as a whole offensively. Their defense was in a bind. Tonight is what we want to be going for offensively.”
Senior running back David Oku would finish with 80 yards rushing and two touchdown runs while sophomore running back Michael Gordon would add 115 yards rushing and two touchdown runs of his own.
The Red Wolves would finish with 228 total rushing yards.
Wide Receiver Allen Muse would finish with six receptions while setting a new personal best with 156 receiving yards.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Julian Jones would finish with eight receptions and 65 yards as the Red Wolves would finish with 311 passing yards and 539 yards of total offense.
“I was extremely happy for Allen. He went out there tonight and he executed,” Harsin said.
It was not only the Red Wolves offense that was on display, the Trojans also made noise of their own.
In fact, each time Arkansas State scored, Troy would almost seemingly march down the field and counter with a score of their own.
Quarterback Corey Robinson led the Trojans (2-1, 0-1 Sun Belt) in passing, going 30 for 51 with 371 yards, two touchdown passes and the two critical interceptions.
However, turnovers would plague the Trojans, both early and late in the game.
The Trojan offense committed four turnovers, including a fumble near the end zone late in the second quarter along with the two interceptions.
Both interceptions came in the 4th quarter, the first coming with 6:12 left when Robinson made an errant pass that would sail into the arms of A-State’s sophomore cornerback Rocky Hayes.
The interception would prove costly as the Red Wolves would immediately march down the field.
A seven play drive, consisting of only rushes would result in the go-ahead touchdown when sophomore backup quarterback Fredi Knighten took the ball 13 yards into the end zone, much to the delight of the Red Wolf faithful.
Troy was not done. The Trojans would have one final chance at tying the ball game late.
After successfully converting a fourth down which had to be reviewed, Troy would march down the field until Robinson would be picked off for the second time, this time by junior running back Frankie Jackson, sealing the victory for the Red Wolves.
A-State will take on the Memphis Tigers this Saturday in Memphis, Tenn. at 3:30 p.m.