MOBILE, Ala. - Arkansas State was down a starting quarterback, and looked to be finished with less than two minutes remaining late Sunday night.
Neither mattered as the Red Wolves won for the third time at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in 12 months. Two of those victories came in the Go Daddy Bowl, the other in a Sun Belt Conference game against South Alabama.
Fredi Knighten relieved Adam Kennedy and made up for what appeared to be a back-breaking interception when he fired a 13-yard touchdown pass to Allen Muse with 32 seconds left, then Scott Secor’s 38-yard field goal was blocked as time expired to finally end a wild 23-20 victory over Ball State.
It was the Red Wolves’ second consecutive victory in the game, and their third trip in as many seasons. This one looked to be lost when Jahwan Edwards went in from 1 yard out to give Ball State a 20-16 lead with 1:32 left.
The score was set up by Knighten’s worst pass of the night with 8:24 left in the game, an interception by Eric Patterson in the end zone while the sophomore quarterback was rolling to the right sideline with ASU leading 16-13 and in position to put the game away.
Instead, Ball State took over at its 20 and drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in 16 plays.
The Red Wolves returned the ensuing kickoff to the Ball State 41 where Knighten fired a 26-yard pass over the middle to J.D. McKissic, then two plays later, lofted a floater to Muse who was wideopen in the corner of the end zone.
Andrew Tryon gave Ball State one last chance when he hit Willie Snead out of bounds late to set up Secor’s 38-yard attempt. But defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers blocked Ball State’s game-tying attempt to give ASU a second consecutive bowl victory and send interim coach John Thompson out victorious in his final game at ASU.
Knighten completed 15 of 20 passes for 115 yards and 1 touchdown and rushed for 97 yards more, while Sirgregory Thornton rushed for ASU’s only other touchdown.
Knighten relieving Kennedy was a move ASU had been poised to make all month after Kennedy dislocated his left kneecap in a Nov. 30 loss at Western Kentucky. Kennedy practiced all week, but said he never felt comfortable. On Sunday, he started, ran two series that ended with punts before giving way to Knighten.
ASU’s defense was needed as much as Knighten.
ASU (8-5) held Ball State’s Spread offense that averaged 40.1 points per game this season mostly in check in the first half, partly by pressuring quarterback Keith Wenning as much as he had been all season.
Twice on first-half third downs ASU got to Wenning with a sack, and he was held to 23 of 44 passing for a season-low 215 yards, while also holding the Cardinals to a season-low point total.
The Red Wolves forced the Cardinals to punt on their first two series’, and only allowed punts when Jahwan Edwards got loose out of the backfield.ASU, concerned for a month about Keith Wenning and Ball State’s passing game, ended up being loosened by Edwards.
The running back ran seven times on a 14-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that ended with Wenning’s 9-yard pass to Willie Snead that put the Cardinals (10-3) up 7-0.
After linebacker Kyle Coleman sacked Wenning on the 1 to force another punt, Wenning connected with Snead on a fourth-and-1 to get to the ASU 30, then again on a third-and-9 from the 25 that put Ball State at the 4. Four plays later, Scott Secor’s 26-yard field goal put the Cardinals up 10-3.
Sports, Pages 13 on 01/06/2014
Print Headline: ASU wins wild finish; scores late, blocks FG