JONESBORO -- The Red Wolves had balance on a football field that had just one end zone.
In the foreground of the north end zone construction at Centennial Bank Stadium, which was peeled back to its sandy goal line, the Arkansas State University offense beat the defense Saturday afternoon by the spring game's arbitrary score of 49-27.
ASU had explosive plays on both offense and defense, which fifth-year head Coach Blake Anderson partly attributed to offensive inconsistency.
"Probably our worst day productivity-wise offensively," Anderson said at the team's postgame news conference. "Just in terms of throwing and catching. It was good to see us finish up with productive plays."
ASU had 371 total offensive yards, and sophomore quarterback Logan Bonner hit sophomore tight end Javonis Isaac for a 55-yard touchdown toward the end of the scrimmage.
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Photos by Thomas Metthe
Photos by Thomas Metthe
Red Wolves starter and senior quarterback Justice Hansen went 3-of-3 passing for 61 yards on the first drive of the scrimmage, capping it with a 2-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Adams.
Hansen connected twice with junior wide receiver Omar Bayless, who caught a 27-yard pass down the seam, then hauled in a 32-yard pass on the left sideline to set up first and goal at the 10.
Hansen finished 7-of-14 passing for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"He's in control of what's going on," Anderson said. "It didn't show up in the stats today, but I'm really pleased with where he's at."
Hansen threw 16 interceptions last season, but last season's Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year did not throw an interception Saturday and said he only threw one interception all spring.
"I think about [ball protection] all the time," Hansen said. "I'm happy about that, and that's something I wanted to do."
Adams caught two touchdowns Saturday, including a 25-yard score in the right corner of the end zone when Bonner lobbed the pass after the 6-3, 210-pound Adams created distance against 5-8, 160-pound sophomore cornerback Colby Sigears.
Bonner was 10-of-21 passing with 156 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The two quarterbacks were sacked a combined seven times by four separate defenders, which offered promise to a defense that had three players that recorded more than three sacks last season.
Senior defensive tackle Christian Howard had a game-high three sacks, and William Bradley-King had two sacks, including a sack-fumble that was ruled as a loss for the offense.
Defenders were not allowed to fully tackle quarterbacks.
Junior safety Darreon Jackson led the game with five tackles.
Bradley-King and senior Ronheen Bingham are expected to take over the pass rush role left by former defensive end and two-time Sun Belt Conference Overall Player of the Year Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, who finished his career as the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision's No. 2 all-time sack leader.
"Me being behind [former defensive end] Chris Odom and Rolland-Jones just gave me a great foundation and helped me get better as an athlete," said Bradley-King, who played in five games last season and recorded one sack.
The ASU defensive line found its rush against an offensive line that entered the spring without its junior starting offensive guards, Troy Elliott and Dalton Ford, who Anderson said have not practiced due to offseason injuries.
"We're thin in some spots and it showed," Anderson said.
Senior Marvis Brown (6-3, 339) and freshman Andre Harris (6-5, 347) started at right and left guards, respectively; sophomore Jacob Still (6-1, 297) returned to start at center; and senior Lanard Bonner (6-5, 310) and sophomore Jacob Atnip (6-5, 310) started at left and right tackles, respectively.
The Red Wolves' offense scored touchdowns on three of its appearances within the defense's 10-yard line, which was an issue last season. ASU finished the season with the nation's eighth-lowest red-zone scoring percentage (71.9).
The first was Hansen's 2-yard pass to Adams, and senior running back Armond Weh-Weh rushed for an 11-yard touchdown, breaking a tackle off the right edge of the offensive line. Bonner threw an 8-yard pass to East Mississippi Community College junior-college transfer Kirk Merritt. Merritt also recorded nine yards rushing on two carries.
Weh-Weh, who was granted an extra year of eligibility after missing most of the last two seasons with ACL and ankle injuries, was the feature back Saturday because returning starter, junior Warren Wand, sat out with an ankle injury.
Weh-Weh had a game-high 36 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.Gallery: Arkansas State Spring Football Game
Sports on 04/22/2018
Print Headline: Spring spread