You could almost hear the refrain from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” raining down onto the field at Centennial Bank Stadium Wednesday night as Arkansas State found a way to turn back the Eagles of Georgia Southern 27-26 for their first victory of the season. QB Justice Hansen shook off a lackluster performance to engineer a 13 play, 70 yard drive eventually tossing a TD pass to Omar Bayless with 9 seconds left to lift ASU (1-4, 1-0 CONF) over favored Georgia Southern.
Many thought this could be the beginning of the end for the magical 5 year run through conference play for the Red Wolves but what has been a constant through the multiple coaches and multiple championships showed itself at the end, guts and perseverance. QB Justice Hansen led the offense onto the field with no timeouts remaining, trailing by 6, only having thrown for 127 yards to that point in the game, and 70 yards between himself and possibly the first chapter in his place in Red Wolf lore. The two plays that will define his performance on the night will ultimately be a gutsy, unlikely 18 yard scramble on a fourth and 16 from his own 24 followed up by a 7 yard endzone corner toss to Omar Bayless to complete the comeback.
The Rushing Game Returns! : ASU outgained Georgia Southern 343 yards to 162. Let that soak in a minute. Most will think that stat was switched in the box score but no. This was an Eagle defense only allowing 78 yards rushing a game coming into Wednesday night. Warren Wand ran for 140 yards and Johnston White added 126 as he seems to be returning to 2015 form.
Red Zone Defense : Georgia Southern made 3 trips into the red zone and came away with 3 FG’s which eventually allowed ASU to stay close to the end. The athleticism and speed of the ASU defense that fans thought they would see all year long finally appeared against the normally stout run offense of GSU.
Turnovers and Penalties: As the old saying goes “there's good news and bad news.” ASU didn't have a penalty called on them until late fourth quarter and then survived 2 offensive holding calls to score late. Those would be the only 2 penalties the whole night, a far cry from the previous games. ASU would finish -5 on turnovers as the defense failed to come up with a single turnover all night.
Plenty to Fix:
- 3 turnovers in the first quarter alone
- Daryl Rollins-Davis and Kendall Sanders running into each other receiving a kickoff eventually causing the ball to be downed at the ASU 3.
- Open field tackling issues still persist as shown on GSU’s 63 yard TD pass to Myles Campbell in the 3rd quarter.
- Cam Echols-Luper badly mishandled a punt in the fourth quarter leading to a turnover. He would be replaced afterwards by Blaise Taylor.
Arkansas State has now won 10 consecutive conference games in a row and is 35-6 in conference play since 2011.