MONROE, La. -- Arkansas State had seen this act before.
A month ago in their previous road trip, the Red Wolves found themselves trailing by three touchdowns in the second quarter against Georgia State before watching the game spiral into a 14-point loss.
On Saturday afternoon at Malone Stadium, the script was nearly identical. Arkansas State University fell behind 21-3 to Louisiana-Monroe early in the second quarter and the Warhawks appeared ready to run away with the game.
But ASU's offense responded with 28 consecutive points, an outburst that eventually continued in the second half. This time, ASU (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) was able to ice a 48-41 victory, the program's 10th consecutive win over Louisiana-Monroe (3-5, 2-2).
"We kind of been down (in the first half) like that before," senior wide receiver Omar Bayless said. "It was the same situation [in] that Georgia State game. We just had to find energy and get everybody going. That's what we did."
It was 34-34 heading into the fourth quarter before ASU blew the game open thanks to a 6-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Marcel Murray and an 8-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jamal Jones. The Red Wolves led 48-34 with 7:26 remaining.
Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Caleb Evans, who was nearly unstoppable for most of the day and finished with 363 total yards and 5 touchdowns, led a late touchdown drive to pull the Warhawks to within seven with 2:21 left. But the ensuing onside kick was recovered by ASU.
The last two times they had been in one-possession games in the fourth quarter -- Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia State -- the Red Wolves lost. Saturday was a different story.
"Attitude's been great. Guys just have not quit," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said. "The kids just keep fighting."
ASU finished with 514 total yards, including 207 on the ground. Murray, who had 24 carries, was responsible for a career-high 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns. It was his third consecutive 100-yard game.
Bayless continued his record-setting season with six catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Bayless now has 1,168 receiving yards this year, a program record. Redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher finished 21 of 28 for 307 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Louisiana-Monroe had raced to a 21-3 lead with just 42 seconds off the clock in the second quarter before the Red Wolves woke up. ASU could only manage a 43-yard field goal, a score set up by four consecutive completions for 51 yards to senior receiver Dahu Green, who finally saw heavy action Saturday after nursing a knee injury most of the season.
"You can't get it all back at once, so I think that was the biggest thing for us," Hatcher said. "We didn't panic, which was something that I think that Georgia State experience helps you with."
A game in peril then did a complete 180-degree turn as ASU rattled off 28 unanswered points during a stretch of 12 minutes and 51 seconds allowing the Red Wolves to grab a 31-21 lead late in the second quarter.
Murray dashed for touchdown runs of 57 and 35 yards and Hatcher completed two touchdown passes -- one to Bayless for 46 yards and the second to senior receiver Kirk Merritt for 23 yards. ASU's defense and special teams units came through by blocking a field-goal attempt, forcing a fumble on a kickoff and the Warhawks' offense into a three and out and a turnover on downs.
Louisiana-Monroe finally put an end to the onslaught when Evans rushed for a 16-yard touchdown with three seconds left before halftime, cutting ASU's lead to 31-28.
"I was frustrated we let them get points right before the half. I really felt like we had a chance to stop them," Anderson said. "Just told the guys we're back in a battle, we dug ourselves back in, let's go finish the second half and let's bury them."
ASU tried just that on the first series of the third quarter, when Anderson gambled on a fourth and 6 from the Red Wolves' 26 by calling a fake punt.
It paid off. Senior punter Cody Grace fooled everyone and rushed for 18 yards. ASU later settled for a 31-yard field goal to go up 34-28 with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
"I thought that was a pretty good call too because it worked," Anderson said with a grin. "Little nervous when I called it. We knew that they were lining up the way we wanted and I have enough respect for their offense. I felt like it was a calculated risk."
Hatcher was picked off on ASU's next series, which set up Louisiana-Monroe deep in Red Wolves territory and led to a 23-yard rushing touchdown by Evans. The game was tied 34-34 with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter after the ensuing extra point clinged off the left upright.
But in the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves pulled away and then held off the Warhawks late.
"Coach A came to us (in the second quarter) and said, 'We gonna put up 50 and we gonna win this game,' " senior defensive tackle Kevin Thurmon said. "He was two short, but hey, we had 48 so we good. ... I trust my coach. I believe in him."
Sports on 11/03/2019
Print Headline: Red Wolves don't repeat themselves