In a week where Jonesboro was wracked with controversy and the Sun Belt took it on the chin once again from out of conference opponents, the Arkansas State Red Wolves did their fans and the conference proud by prevailing 21-14 in a hard fought but sloppy defensive struggle over the visiting Utah State Aggies in overtime. A-State defied the football gods again and again as they were able to pull out the win despite four turnovers and a missed field goal.
Utah State had the early momentum as they forced and recovered an early fumble by ASU receiver Tres Houston inside their own red zone. The Aggies then struck first blood midway through the first as receiver Hunter Sharp blew by A-State's Artez Brown to haul in perfectly thrown ball from Darell Garretson for an 81 yard touchdown.
The second quarter was defined by drives in opposing territory that were ended by turnovers. Utah State's Garretson, who was filling in for the dynamic Chuckie Keeton, was intercepted on a great jump on a slant route by Sterling Young, which ended USU's drive deep into the Red Wolf end zone. Arkansas State's drive into USU territory died when quarterback Fredi Knighten panicked under pressure and made a...less than perfect pass attempt.
Arkansas State finally got on the board midway through the third quarter as a botched punt attempt by the Aggies set up a reverse for J.D. McKissic, who got a great block from Knighten and rumbled 13 yards for a Red Wolf touchdown. Utah State would strike back late in the third as Garretson found receiver Ronald Butler through a very tight window, and Butler was able to slip into the second level and take it in for a 41 yard touchdown.
A-State drove into USU territory to start the 4th quarter, but Luke Ferguson missed a chance to cut the Aggie lead on a line drive field goal that went wide right. However, the Red Wolves would make good on their next chance as they drove 66 yards and capped off a scoring drive with a simple 4 yard plunge of running back Johnston White up the middle. Utah State would then go three and out, and then things just got silly.
Fredi Knighten already wasn't having his best outing for Arkansas State. The junior quarterback had an interception and saw his receivers being contained by an aggressive and talented Utah State defense, not to mention the aforementioned pass-turned-fumble. Knighten dropped back at midfield with under three minutes left to try and make a move into opposing territory.
Then it happened again. Disaster, once again, off of a disastrous throw attempt.
Utah State drove down to the A-State 21, and set up for a game winning 38 yard field attempt. The Red Wolves were about to pay dearly for all of the mistakes they'd hurt themselves with all evening. Then, a previous goat from earlier stepped up and made a heroic play for the Red Wolves. Artez Brown made good on his blown coverage in the first quarter by blocking the field goal and sending the game into overtime.
From there, it was all Red Wolves. Knighten redeemed his earlier mistakes by finding Dijon Paschal for a 24-yard touchdown reception on the third play in overtime. Utah State drove to the ASU 17, had a 4th and 2, and shot themselves in the foot with a false start. Arkansas State then broke up a pass attempt to Butler and sealed the win.
A-State moves to 2-2 on the season and will have two weeks to prepare for the start of conference play vs. rival Louisiana-Monroe. They'll need the bye week to fix some of the problems plaguing their offense, and one has to consider Keeton's absence when evaluating just how good Arkansas State is after this win. That said, it appears that the Red Wolves will once again be in the conversation for the Sun Belt title.