It took until the season's eighth game, but fans of Arkansas State finally got to see the offensive explosion that had been waiting for since the day Gus Malzahn was hired in December, 2011.
Brian Davis kicked a season-high five field goals and the Red Wolves amassed 526 yards in total offense to post an impressive 50-27 Sun Belt Conference triumph over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Tuesday (Oct. 23) night in an ESPN2 televised contest at ULL's Cajun Field in Lafayette, La.
Arkansas State extends its current winning streak to three as the Red Wolves improve to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Sun Belt Conference.
"I'm very proud of our team," said ASU head coach Gus Malzahn. "Coming here we hadn't had much success in quite a few years. I'm very proud of our team defensively, offensively, and the special teams in it all came together tonight."
Arkansas State set the tone early in the game, registering the initial 20 points of the contest all within the first 16 minutes of play. The Red Wolves struck paydirt after taking the opening kickoff and marching 45 yards on 11 plays before going up 3-0 on junior kicker Brian Davis' career-tying and season-best 47-yard field goal at the 10:29 mark. On its next possession, A-State would claim a 6-0 lead as Davis connected on a 22-yarder with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
ASU's advantage increased to 13 points on the first play from scrimmage in the second quarter when sophomore running back Frankie Jackson scored on an 11-yard sweep around the right end, completing a 42-yard, five-play drive. The Red Wolves continued to make plays as senior free safety Tausean Holmes intercepted ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway's pass over the middle at the ASU 47-yard line and returned the ball 18 yards to the 35-yard line.
Two plays later, Ryan Aplin hit junior wideout Julian Jones in the end zone from the 35-yard marker at 14:09 to cap a 12-second elapsed drive and give the visitors a 20-point cushion.
Louisiana-Lafayette would trim A-State's lead to 20-7 with 7:01 remaining in the first half as Terrance Broadway threw a 38-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Darryl Surgent. The Red Wolves would get six of those points back from the Ragin' Cajuns before the end of the first half on a pair of Brian Davis field goals.
The ASU kicker booted a 45-yard field goal at 4:18 to end an eight-play, 45-yard drive and then drilled another from 21 yards away with 21.7 seconds left in concluding a six-play, 51-yard march en route to giving the Red Wolves a 26-7 halftime lead. ASU held a 327-179 advantage in total offense through the opening two quarters, which included a 244-145 passing yard margin.
The Ragin' Cajuns cut into ASU's 18-point lead in the third quarter with their second TD of the night. The score remained intact for the next seven minutes before Arkansas State found the end zone for the third time as junior running back David Oku tallied on a five-yard sweep untouched to make it 33-14 at 5:23 in the third. ASU wasn't done putting points on the board in the quarter however as freshman Rocky Hayes broke loose on a 57-yard "highlight reel" scoring run just under the two-minute mark to give ASU a commanding 40-14 lead.
The fourth quarter, which featured a combined 23 points, saw A-State go up 43-14 on Brian Davis' 29-yard field goal with 8:58 left in the game. The Cajuns countered on Torrey Pierce's five-yard TD rush at 6:58 before Frankie Johnson posted his second TD run on a two-yard dash with about a minute left to give A-State a 50-21 lead. ULL added another touchdown on the game's final play.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Arkansas State will return to the field on Nov. 3 against North Texas in Denton, Texas.
ASU improved to 9-4 in midweek games since 2001 and now has four straight victories in midweek games.
The ASU victory also snapped Louisiana-Lafayette's eight-game home winning streak and was the Red Wolves' first at Cajun Field since 1992 (20-7).
The Red Wolves also stretched their conference road winning streak to seven games. They've won 11 of their last 12 SBC games to date.
Keep An Eye On: Linebacker Nathan Herrold, who leads the Red Wolves in tackles for the season and was coming off a career-high 17 stops against South Alabama, tied for the team lead with seven tackles against ULL while also recovering a fumble and returning it six yards, his second turnover in the last two games.
Looking Good: The ASU offense produced over 300 yards for the seventh time this year, doing so in all but one game.
Still Needs Work: Arkansas State still isn't getting much from its return game on special teams. Rocky Hayes returned two punts for the Red Wolves for minus five yards and returned one kickoff for 19 yards while Frankie Jackson also returned one kickoff for 17 yards. ASU did have its best game as far as punting after weeks of shanks and blocked punts. Ryan Wilbourn took over full time from Neely Sullivant and boomed two punts for an average of 46.0 yards with a long of 48 while Ryan Aplin had one punt for 41 yards.
Quote To Note: "It was a very important game. It was a big night with ESPN and coming into an outstanding team (Louisiana-Lafayette) at their home. For us to play well, it's very encouraging for me and my staff."-ASU head coach Gus Malzahn said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Freshman WR J.D. McKissic has now recorded at least four receptions in every game this season. McKissic finished with four receptions, giving him 50 for the season. That ranks as the eighth most in school history for a single season.
David Oku recorded his team-leading eighth touchdown. Seven of his eight touchdowns have come over the last five games.
Junior kicker Brian Davis recorded a season-long 47-yard field goal, which also matched the longest of his career. Davis kicked a season-high five field goals and finished with a season-high 20 points. His five field goals are the most by a Sun Belt player this year. His 20 points were the second most in school history and Sun Belt history for a single game. Davis recorded multiple field goals in a game for the fifth time this year and 10th time of his career.
Junior linebacker Eddie Porter returned to action after mission one game with concussion symptoms and recorded only one tackle but it was a big one for a seven yard loss and sack.
Try RedWolfReport.com ABSOLUTELY FREE for 60 days! CLICK HERE to sign up today!
Keep checking back with RedWolfReport.com all of your Red Wolf athletic and recruiting news!