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ASU ends season with loss at home

by Mitchell Gladstone | November 28, 2021 at 2:29 a.m.

JONESBORO -- The flags in the northeast corner were taut, buoyed by 20 mph winds gusting from the southwest.

Blake Grupe set up 48 yards from the south end zone, holder Ryan Hanson kneeling along the right hashmark.

The kicker put his leg through the football as the final three seconds ticked off the clock. And as the ball approached the goal line, it died -- dropping straight to the turf and bouncing harmless in the end zone.

An unsatisfying ending to a fruitless campaign, the Red Wolves again came up short.

Arkansas State wrapped up its worst season since 2000 Saturday afternoon, edged 24-22 by Texas State at Centennial Bank Stadium. The Red Wolves outgained the Bobcats 471-333 and nearly reached 200 rushing yards for the first time this season, but they kicked three field goals of 23 yards or shorter after stalling three times inside the 10-yard line, possibly giving away as many as a dozen points.

"I love Blake and I trust him and I wanted to give him an opportunity," Coach Butch Jones said of Grupe's miss at the buzzer. "Was it a difficult kick? Absolutely. Has he made those kicks before? He'll be the first to tell you he has. But it didn't come down to that. It came down to the red-zone execution, it came down to the way we started and it's things people don't see."

Jones again said ASU (2-10, 1-7 Sun Belt) didn't look focused during pre-game warmups, and it carried over to the game. Texas State received the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 10 plays, punching it in with Jahmyl Jeter from 4 yards out.

The Red Wolves responded in rapid succession as Layne Hatcher hit a streaking Dahu Green for a 39-yard touchdown two minutes later, yet the Bobcats would score again, converting on a fake punt despite the fact that ASU was in its punt-safe formation.

"We didn't come out ready to play, for whatever reason," defensive end Kivon Bennett said. "What's crazy is we came out super flat and they only had [17] points at the half. ... It just shows how good we can be."

Other than in their win at Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago, the Red Wolves had given up at least 400 yards to every FBS opponent this season. Not only did they hold Texas State (4-8, 3-5) under 350, the Bobcats had just 18 yards passing in the second half.

But the Red Wolves' lack of offensive sharpness lingered into the second half. They took the opening kickoff of the third quarter down to the Bobcat 10-yard-line in six plays, then went incomplete pass, 5-yard run, incomplete pass, leading to another short Grupe field goal.

Trailing by 24-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Red Wolves had second and goal at Texas State's 1 following an option keeper by Wyatt Begeal. They lost 4 yards on the next two plays and sent Grupe out once more, pulling them within a possession at 24-16.

"We make mistakes in critical moments," running back Lincoln Pare said. "We truly beat ourselves and it's a lack of focus at times."

The Red Wolves marched into Bobcat territory and on fourth and long, Hatcher threw short of the sticks to Corey Rucker, who eluded multiple defenders and sprinted 22 yards for the touchdown, cutting the deficit to 24-22.

The two-point try failed when Hatcher -- who ended the day 25-of-37 passing for 277 yards -- couldn't link up with Green on a sprint-out.

As Jones repeatedly said afterward, it wasn't any particular play that doomed the Red Wolves. Rather, it was a case of all too often coming up short.

"There are a lot of things that we need to get corrected and fixed," Jones said. "I think we've got guys that want to do that. But we have to continue to demand excellence, and it starts with me."

Print Headline: ASU ends season with loss at home

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