Breaking: I-30 reopens in both directions; high water caused closures, backed up traffic for miles
Today's Paper Search Latest In the news Traffic #Gazette200 Listen Digital replica FAQ Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles + Games Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

ARKANSAS STATE Senior Justice Hansen (260-388-6, 3,172 yards, 27 TDs) was named the 2018 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. Hansen completed 67 percent of his attempts this season, his highest completion percentage in three seasons. Hansen needs three touchdowns to be responsible for 100 in his career, which would make him the first ASU and Sun Belt player to ever throw for 30-plus TDs in two different seasons.

NEVADA Senior Ty Gangi (250-409-11, 3,131 yards, 23 TDs) ended the 2018 regular season having thrown a touchdown pass in 26 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in the country. He started 11 games for the Wolf Pack in 2018, passing for 284.6 yards per game, the highest season average of his career.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas State

Running backs

ARKANSAS STATE Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Marcel Murray (137-793, 7 TDs, 5.8 yards per carry) surpassed senior Warren Wand (123-652, 4 TDs, 5.3) on ASU's depth chart and leads a three-man crew of tailbacks, with senior Armond Weh-Weh (55-245, 4.5) at No. 3. ASU averages 183.2 rushing yards per game.

NEVADA Toa Taua (156-816, 6 TDs, 5.2) was named the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. Taua led all freshmen in the Mountain West in rushing yards (816) and rushing yards per game (68.0). Taua, Kelton Moore (83-413, 4 TDs, 5.0) and Devonte Lee (42-177, 6 TDs, 4.2) have scored 16 rushing touchdowns. Nevada averages 157.6 rushing yards per game.

ADVANTAGE None

Receivers/tight ends

ARKANSAS STATE WR Kirk Merritt (75-939, 7 TDs) led all Sun Belt receivers with 75 catches this season. Merritt's breakout season leads a deep, veteran group of WRs. WR Justin McInnis (56-694, 5 TDs) has been a primary WR in each of the past two seasons. TE Javonis Isaac (12-210, 4 TDs) will play for the first time since a thigh injury Nov. 3 sidelined him for three games.

NEVADA WR Kaleb Fossum (69-725, 1 TD) led all Wolf Pack pass-catchers with 69 receptions in 2018. WR McLane Mannix (50-875, 7 TDs), who led Nevada in receiving yards and touchdowns, announced in December he would transfer from the program and will not play in the Arizona Bowl. WR Romeo Doubs (43-562, 2 TDs) has emerged as a threat.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas State

Line

ARKANSAS STATE Seniors Lanard Bonner (left tackle) and Marvis Brown (right guard) will play their final games vs. Nevada. Justin Dutton will make his third start of the season at right tackle after Nour-Eddine Seidnaly suffered a season-ending knee injury. C Jacob Still will make his 13th start of the season.

NEVADA Senior Sean Krepsz (started final 9 games) and junior Jake Nelson (12 starts) earned All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2018. Senior guard Anthony Palomares helped anchor Nevada's offensive line, which ranked No. 14 in the FBS by allowing 1.17 sacks per game. Sophomore Nate Brown also started all 12 games.

ADVANTAGE Nevada

DEFENSE

Line

ARKANSAS STATE Defensive end Ronheen Bingham (65 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks) was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. Senior defensive tackles Kevin Thurmon (61, 11 TFL, 3.5), Forrest Merrill (53, 7.5 TFL, 4.5) and William Bradley-King (32, 8.5 TFL, 6) led ASU's defense to 32 sacks and 91 tackles for loss.

NEVADA Korey Rush (30, 11.5 TFL, 6) was named to the All-Mountain West first team and started 9 games before an injury sidelined him for the final 3 games of the regular season. Nevada ranked 12th in the FBS in tackles for loss per game (7.8) in the regular season.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas State

Linebackers

ARKANSAS STATE Sophomore Tajhea Chambers (70, 5.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles) controlled a two-man linebacking unit beside true freshman Derrick Bean (31, 2.5 TFL). Chambers' 4 forced fumbles were the most among all Red Wolves, and his 70 tackles are the third most on ASU.

NEVADA Senior Malik Reed (72, 15.5 TFL, 8, 4 FF) was named to the All-Mountain West first team. He has 22 career sacks, the fifth-most all-time at Nevada. Reed ranks No. 1 in the FBS in career forced fumbles (11). Junior Gabe Sewell (85, 6.5 TFL, 3.0) leads all Wolf Pack players in tackles.

ADVANTAGE Nevada

Secondary

ARKANSAS STATE Senior nickel back Justin Clifton (75, 5.5 TFL, 2 INTs) and safety Darreon Jackson (84, 6.5 TFL, 1.5, 1 FF) will play their final games at ASU. Clifton, junior B.J. Edmonds (49, 2 INTs) and sophomore Jerry Jacobs (31, 3 TFL, 3 INTs) round out ASU's secondary, which grabbed 10 INTs in the regular season.

NEVADA Two seniors, Dameon Baber (54, 3 INTs) and Asauni Rufus (59, 5 TFL, 1 INT), and one junior, Daniel Brown (49, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT), were named All-Mountain West honorable mention. Baber's 3 INTs lead all Wolf Pack players. Nevada gathered 8 INTs in 2018.

ADVANTAGE None

Special teams

ARKANSAS STATE Freshman K Blake Grupe (12-17 FG, 34-37 PAT) took over as ASU's starting kicker early this season. P Cody Grace averages 40.3 yards per punt and placed 23 punts inside the 20-yard line. ASU has allowed -15 punt return yards in 2018, which are the fewest in NCAA history for an entire season.

NEVADA Senior K Ramiz Ahmed (14-19 FG, 39-43 PAT) won Nevada's starting job out of fall camp and held it all season. Ahmed is 14 for 15 on field goals inside of 40 yards. Junior Quinton Conaway averages 43.4 yards per punt and set career highs with 53 punts, 2,298 punt yards and a 43.4-yard average. Conaway booted a 74-yard punt on Oct. 6 vs. Fresno State.

ADVANTAGE None

Intangibles

ARKANSAS STATE The Arizona Bowl boils down to three things for ASU: Which Red Wolves offense will show up after five weeks off? Will they be rusty? Can ASU's defense disrupt Nevada QB Ty Gangi and throw the Wolf Pack off balance? Given travel issues and Tucson being a trek from Jonesboro, the Red Wolves will certainly be outnumbered in Arizona Stadium, so this is more of a road game.

NEVADA Nevada ended the regular season 4-1, with the loss being a 34-29 season-finale defeat against UNLV on Nov. 24. The Wolf Pack's offense is very similar to ASU's, so will they intentionally try to get into a shootout or slow it down and keep ASU's offense off the field? If so, the bowl will be determined by Nevada's offense vs. ASU's defense -- a true tossup.

ADVANTAGE Arkansas State

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Arkansas State defensive lineman Kevin Thurmon has 61 tackles, 11 for a loss and 3.5 sacks to help lead a Red Wolves defense that totaled 32 sacks and 91 tackles for loss this season.

Sports on 12/29/2018

Print Headline: Position-by-position analysis

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

You must be signed in to post comments

Comments

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT