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Red zone woes doom Arkansas St. in 16-13 OT Arizona Bowl loss

Red Wolves out-gain Nevada 499-285, but only muster 13 points.

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-Arkansas State vs Nevada Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A run of goal line interceptions and botched field goal attempts spoiled Arkansas State’s visit to the desert as Nevada won the Arizona Bowl, 16-13 in overtime.

Reagan Roberson piled through a couple Arkansas State defenders to score from 11 yards out. The score came after the Red Wolves were held to a field goal in the first portion of overtime.

Dramatic conclusion

The Arkansas State defense smothered the Nevada offense all day, except for two passes to Ben Putman.

One was a flea flicker that ultimately did not result in points. The second was a 44-yard catch running open down the left sideline to setup Nevada at the one-yard-line with under two minutes to play.

Devonte Lee punched it in to give Nevada a late 10-7 lead.

Give the Red Wolves credit for moving 61 yards in 1:06 to setup a game-tying field goal. Justice Hansen, who will probably not put this game at the front of his highlight reel, looked comfortable wheeling and dealing in the two minute drill.

Arkansas State stalled out in the first part of overtime, settling for a field goal. Roberson’s touchdown against a spent defense gave Nevada the walkoff win.

Offense piles up yards, mistakes

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-Arkansas State vs Nevada Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wolves seemed to seize some offensive momentum after a sleepy 0-0 first quarter for both schools, given the 10:15 a.m. local start time.

Arkansas State moved the ball between the 20s efficiently all game, racking up 499 yards by game’s end. They would take a 7-3 lead on a two-yard Marcel Murray plunge with just over three minutes to play in the first half.

The Red Wolves moved downfield quickly before halftime, but kicker Blake Grupe missed a 25-yard chip shot - his second miss on the day.

Arkansas State would reach the red zone in three of their next four possessions to start the second half.

The results:

  • A fake field goal attempt that saw offensive lineman Lanard Bonner try to sneak into the end zone from the four-yard-line. It didn’t go anywhere.
  • A Justice Hansen interception on 3rd and goal from the six-yard-line.
  • A Hansen interception on 1st and goal from the nine-yard-line.

The Red Wolves finished the game 1-for-5 inside the red zone with only seven points to show for it.

Their ineptitude in the red zone overshadowed productive performances from Omar Bayless (seven catches, 129 yards), Kirk Merritt (eight catches, 66 yards) and Warren Wand (16 carries, 140 yards).

stAte defense controlled game

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-Arkansas State vs Nevada Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolfpack had no answers for the Arkansas State defense for most of the game. The Red Wolves’ front seven eliminated running lanes and continually harassed Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi (18-for-34, 200 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT).

Nevada could only muster 65 total yards of offense in the first half and finally broke the 100-yard mark early in the fourth quarter. Mountain West Freshman of the Year Toa Taua was held to zero yards on eight first half carries.

Arkansas State’s defense held Nevada to 3-of-16 on third downs.

The Red Wolves did this losing two of its star defenders to injury. Ronheen Bingham injured his leg in the first quarter, while Justin Clifton missed time in the second half due to injury.

Others stepped up in their place. Junior B.J. Edmonds and sophomore Jerry Jacobs intercepted Gangi in the second half to setup scoring opportunities for the offense.

Senior defensive end Dajon Emory had two big fourth quarter sacks to put Nevada in deep down and distance holes.

It’s a shame the defense had to be on the field to watch the Wolfpack celebrate the bowl win.