JONESBORO -- Arkansas State University and Georgia Southern find themselves in similar positions heading into today's regular-season meeting.
Both teams are 6-4 overall.
Arkansas State vs. Georgia Southern
WHEN 2 p.m.
WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro
RECORDS ASU (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt); Georgia Southern (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt)
RADIO KFIN-FM, 107.9, in Jonesboro; KHLR-FM, 106.7, in Little Rock
COACHES Blake Anderson (45-28 in six seasons at ASU and overall); Chad Lunsford (18-11 in three seasons at Georgia Southern and overall)
SERIES Tied 2-2.
LAST MEETING ASU lost to Georgia Southern 28-21 in Statesboro, Ga., on Sept. 29, 2018.
LAST WEEK ASU defeated Coastal Carolina 28-27 in Jonesboro. Georgia Southern defeated Louisiana-Monroe 51-29 in Statesboro.
NOTEWORTHY The point spread between ASU and Georgia Southern is even. … ASU is 27-5 in its past 32 games in November, including an eight-game winning streak. … ASU senior wide receiver Omar Bayless, who leads the nation with 1,262 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns, was named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award. … ASU is expected to honor 17 players prior to kickoff for senior day. They are Tony Adams, Tukua Ahoia, Omar Bayless, Darveon Brown, Javier Carbonell, Carson Coats, BJ Edmonds, Trent Ellis-Brewer, Damon Foncham, Cody Grace, Klint Harvey, Darreon Jackson, Kirk Louis, Kirk Merritt, Jeremy Smith, Kevin Thurmon and Logan Wescott.
Both are 4-2 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Both are second in their respective divisions, each a game back.
The difference is Georgia Southern holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the lone team in front of it -- No. 24 Appalachian State (9-1, 5-1), which the Eagles beat 24-21 on Halloween night in Boone, N.C.
Georgia Southern needs to win out and have Appalachian State drop another game to win the East and earn a berth in the Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 7.
ASU, which is riding a three-game winning streak, has less-than-ideal chances at winning the West. The Red Wolves lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, the West leader, 37-20 in Jonesboro on Oct. 17, which means the Ragin' Cajuns must lose their last two to give ASU a shot.
Sun Belt title race stakes aside, it's the home finale for ASU at Centennial Bank Stadium. Kickoff is at 2 p.m., and the Red Wolves plan to honor 17 players prior to kickoff for senior day.
"It can be an emotional time. We want to make sure we do our part to send them out with a good memory," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said. "You don't want to lose your last game at home."
Anderson had plenty of good to say this week about Georgia Southern's program.
"I think they're one of the most complete teams in the league," Anderson said. "They've got athletes all around Statesboro (Ga.). They don't have to go very far [to recruit]. They're built really well in all three phases. They play great on special teams, and not everybody in our league does."
The Eagles' offense, which is run-heavy and utilizes the option, was a major focus for ASU this week. Georgia Southern averages 256 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the Sun Belt and 11th nationally. That has helped the Eagles rank second in the league and 22nd nationally in time of possession, averaging 32:34 per game.
Eleven different players have carried the ball this season for the Eagles. Junior running backs J.D. King and Wesley Kennedy have each rushed for more than 600 yards and combined for 14 touchdowns. Kennedy is averaging 7.6 yards per carry -- which would rank second in the country if he had more carries to qualify -- while King is averaging 4.2.
"I feel like they bring a lot of aggression," senior defensive tackle Kevin Thurmon said of Georgia Southern's offense. "It's run. That's all they think about is run, run, run, run, run. Try to run the ball down our throat."
The passing game is nearly nonexistent at times, but that's part of Georgia Southern's philosophy.
The Eagles have thrown the ball 100 times all season -- ASU, in comparison, has attempted 355 passes. The most passes Georgia Southern has attempted in a game is 17. The Eagles average 61.8 passing yards per game, which ranks last in the Sun Belt.
Georgia Southern junior quarterback Shai Werts, the team's third-leading rusher, has run for more yards this season than he's thrown for. He has carried the ball 116 times for 461 yards and 3 touchdowns, while he's completed 36 of 74 passes for 456 yards, 6 touchdowns and no picks.
"They're gonna run the football, run the football, and you're committing, you're committing, you're committing, and then they're running the play-action pass to slow you down," ASU defensive coordinator David Duggan said. "You have to take care of your job. If you don't, obviously, that's when big plays are gonna happen.
"You say it no matter what game you're in, but this game is even more important because they're gonna use all of those phases, and so you better take care of your phase. It's ultra-discipline this week."
The Eagles also have the top rush defense in the Sun Belt, allowing 144.1 yards per game, and the third-best scoring defense, allowing 29.5 points per game.
ASU offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf didn't mince words about what the Red Wolves are up against.
"I think their personnel across the board may be the best that we've played in our league to this point," Heckendorf said. "I think they're really athletic. I think they play really hard, and they got an edge about them that we've got to match that intensity."
Sports on 11/23/2019
Print Headline: Wolves expecting ground assault