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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas State quarterback Layne Hatcher (3) dives for extra yardage between Central Arkansas linebackers DreMatthews (45) and DarinDavenport (24) during the second quarter of the Red Wolves' 50-27 win on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro. More photos at www.arkansasonline.com/1011asuuca/ (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe) ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Thomas Metthe)

JONESBORO — From the 1:27 mark in the second quarter to the 0:29 mark in the third quarter — a period of 15:58 in game clock — Arkansas State University played perhaps its best football of the year.

ASU outscored the University of Central Arkansas 27-0 in that span, giving the Red Wolves a 30-point lead that led to a 50-27 victory Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro.

After suffering their worst conference loss since 2006 a week ago, the Red Wolves (2-2) were in need a performance like the one they put forth against the Bears.

“The energy level was tremendous all week. It was tremendous before the game started,” ASU Coach Blake Anderson said. “I think just the environment of the game, the wind and the rain created some problems early — just enough to make it a little sloppy, but I’m proud of the way the guys responded in the second quarter and on into the third quarter.”

It was certainly a sloppy start for both teams. On the first possession of the game, the Bears blocked an ASU field goal attempt and returned it to the ASU 23, which led to a UCA field goal. On UCA’s next possession, Arkansas State forced a safety after quarterback Breylin Smith bobbled a snap, which led to a 3-2 score at the end of the first quarter.

UCA (2-3) added another field goal early in the second quarter, but ASU responded with a Jonathan Adams Jr. touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher. With 3:14 left in the first half, ASU sophomore cornerback Samy Johnson made the defensive play of the game, intercepting Smith and returning it 60 yards for a touchdown and 16-6 lead.

Before the play, senior linebacker Justin Rice told Johnson what play was coming.

“Justin told me on the sideline to watch for that,” Johnson said. “As soon as I saw it, I knew that I was going to get it and take it. Nothing else was going through my mind but scoring.”

UCA answered after a fumble by ASU senior running back Jamal Jones, as Smith found junior Lujuan Winningham for a 23-yard touchdown pass to make it 16-13 with 1:31 to go before half.

But Hatcher would lead Arkansas State on a quick-strike drive, going 73 yards in 58 seconds on eight plays. He capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bowling for a 23-13 lead at halftime.

Then it was junior Logan Bonner’s turn to start the third quarter, taking the Red Wolves 75 yards in five plays in 1:20, hitting senior Dahu Green for a 3-yard touchdown for a 30-13 lead.

“I thought the one right before the half was critical. It was huge to get points because it would have been real easy to run the clock out, and we did not want to put our defense back out there,” Anderson said. “And then coming back out of the halftime, to me, it was about making sure we didn’t go three and out into the wind.”

Adams and Green would each catch their second touchdowns of the day in the third quarter — Adams’ again coming from Hatcher and Green’s from Bonner — to extend ASU’s lead to 43-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

UCA made a run to start the fourth, with Winningham catching his second and third touchdown passes of the day, thanks in part to a successful UCA onside kick after the first score and a wide-open halfback pass to him for the second.

But Bonner would seal the victory with a 56-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Corey Rucker with 5:14 remaining.

Winningham finished with 4 catches for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Bears.

UCA Coach Nathan Brown said Johnson’s interception combined with his offense’s inability to take advantage of Arkansas State’s mistakes dug his team too big of a hole.

“A tough loss,” Brown said. “A big turning point was the pick-six. It kind of shifted the momentum back toward to them.

“Offensively in the second half, we shot ourselves in the foot. We had a chance to score two touchdowns in the third quarter and cut it to a one-score game, and we didn’t.”

Anderson was especially pleased with his defense’s performance after its poor outing a week ago at Coastal Carolina, where the Red Wolves allowed 539 yards. On Saturday the Red Wolves allowed 411 yards and forced three turnovers — Johnson’s interception, junior Antonio Fletcher’s interception and a forced fumble by sophomore Anthony Switzer.

“We were way more competitive around the ball today,” Anderson said. “The tempo, we tend to fly around, you could see more of that today. I still think there’s another progression, but we did compete at the ball more today.”

Rice led the ASU defense in tackles with 12, tackles for loss with 4 and sacks with 3. A transfer from Fresno State, Rice has only been with the team for a couple of months. After four games, he’s finally starting to feel comfortable.

“Feeling more comfortable now in week four, with all the work [David] Duggan has done to help me get all the defense and figure it all out quickly,” Rice said. “And I’ve had guys around me like Caleb Bonner and Jeffmario [Brown], they’ve been kind of bringing me along as well. Anything I don’t know I just ask to my right, ask to my left.”

ASU totaled a season-high 539 yards, with Bonner and Hatcher rotating every other series and putting up similar numbers — Bonner was 11-of-19 passing for 239 yards and 3 touchdowns, Hatcher was 10-of-19 passing for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“They’re both just alike,” Anderson said. “They both feed off each other and the team responds to both. I know it’s unique, but our guys are handling it and I think you see today — three touchdowns for each, no turnovers.”

Sun Belt standings

WESTERN DIVISION

CONF. ALL

La.-Lafayette........................2-0 3-0 Texas State..........................1-1 1-4 South Alabama....................0-0 1-2

Arkansas State.............. 0-1 2-2

La.-Monroe.........................0-2 0-5

EASTERN DIVISION

CONF. ALL

Coastal Carolina..................1-0 3-0 Troy.....................................1-0 2-1 Georgia Southern................1-1 2-1 Appalachian State...............0-0 2-1 Georgia State......................0-1 1-1

SATURDAY’S GAMES

Arkansas State 50, Central Arkansas 27

Liberty 40, La.-Monroe 7

Troy 37, Texas State 17

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

All times Central

Coastal Carolina at La.-Lafayette, 6:30 p.m.

THURSDAY’S GAME

Georgia St. at Arkansas St., 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 17

Texas State at South Alabama, 11 a.m. Massachusetts at Ga. Southern, 3 p.m. E. Kentucky at Troy, 6 p.m.

Box score

Cent. Arkansas..................3 10 0 14 — 27 Arkansas St. .....................2 21 20 7 — 50 First Quarter

UCA—FG H.Ray 36, 8:07.

ASU—safety, 6:04.

Second Quarter

UCA—FG H.Ray 42, 10:44.

ASU—J.Adams 4 pass from Hatcher (Grupe kick), 5:22.

ASU—Johnson 60 interception return (Grupe kick), 3:17.

UCA—Winningham 23 pass from B.Smith (H.Ray kick), 1:31.

ASU—Bowling 15 pass from Hatcher (Grupe kick), :29.

Third Quarter

ASU—Da.Green 3 pass from L.Bonner (Grupe kick), 13:40.

ASU—J.Adams 22 pass from Hatcher (Grupe kick), 8:19.

ASU—Da.Green 20 pass from L.Bonner (kick failed), :29.

Fourth Quarter

UCA—Winningham 2 pass from B.Smith (H.Ray kick), 13:32.

UCA—Winningham 31 pass from Douglas (H.Ray kick), 11:32.

ASU—Rucker 56 pass from L.Bonner (Grupe kick), 5:14.

Attendance—4,561.

UCA ASU First downs....................................22 25 Rushes-yards.............................. 37-78 36-181 Passing.........................................333 392 Comp-Att-Int..............................25-50-2 21-40-0 Return Yards..................................42 58 Punts-Avg. ..................................5-47.4 5-52.0 Fumbles-Lost.................................4-1 1-1 Penalties-Yards.............................6-33 8-75 Time of Possession.....................33:05 26:55 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Cent. Arkansas, Crossley 17-83, C.Myers 6-10, Douglas 3-5, Kitt-Denton 1-2, B.Smith 10-(minus 22). Arkansas St., Murray 6-52, Ja.Jones 12-45, Pare 5-41, Hatcher 5-16, L.Bonner 2-14, Azubuike 4-7, Motley 1-4, Edwards 1-2.

PASSING—Cent. Arkansas, Douglas 1-1-0-31, B.Smith 24-49-2-302. Arkansas St., L.Bonner 11-19-0-239, Clack 0-2-0-0, Hatcher 10-19-0-153.

RECEIVING—Cent. Arkansas, Hudson 12-154, Winningham 4-93, Perkinson 4-62, C.Myers 2-15, G.Thomas 1-7, Short 1-2, Crossley 1-0. Arkansas St., J.Adams 6-101, Da.Green 6-94, Bowling 5-33, Amos 1-65, Rucker 1-56, Tyler 1-32, Pare 1-11.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—Arkansas St., Grupe 22.

On the inside

UCA slip-ups lead to downward slide. Page 8C.

UCA cornerback hurt; ASU pair thrive. Page 8C.

Print Headline: Wolves blow by Bears in flash

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