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Red Wolves falter late in Texas

by Mitchell Gladstone | November 20, 2022 at 2:22 a.m.

Arkansas State long ago recognized that any game it was going to win this season would almost certainly come down to the wire.

The Red Wolves found themselves on the bitter end of things in September and October, coming up empty on potential game-tying or go-ahead drives at Memphis, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi.

But last week's defensive stand on a Massachusetts two-point conversion that almost certainly would've sent things to overtime was a reminder: ASU, even if not in the prettiest of fashions, could close out a win.

Texas State (4-7, 2-5 Sun Belt) kicker Seth Keller didn't give the Red Wolves that opportunity Saturday evening.

Keller knocked through a game-winning 29-yard field goal with two seconds remaining at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos, Texas, lifting Texas State to a 16-13 victory and snapping its four-game losing skid.

ASU kicker Dominic Zvada had drilled a chip shot field goal to tie things at 13-13 just 29 seconds earlier, but Bobcat quarterback Layne Hatcher (Pulaski Academy) hit a pair of 21-yard passes on the hosts' final drive and a roughing-the-passer penalty on Red Wolf defensive lineman Ethan Hassler set up Keller with a relatively comfortable kick for the victory.

"It just kind of summarizes the entire season," ASU Coach Butch Jones said in his postgame radio interview. "Football is a game of momentum. You have too many dropped passes -- a couple...for touchdowns -- and then you let a team hang around, they get the outcomes like this.

"It's all the little things that add up. ... And they don't get you until they get you."

Although the Red Wolves had coughed away a 10-3 lead they held at the start of the third quarter and trailed 13-10 with 3:17 remaining following a go-ahead 49-yard field goal by Keller, ASU began its final series with great field position. Johnnie Lang brought the ensuing kickoff across midfield, setting the Red Wolves up with more than three minutes and needing just 41 yards for the end zone.

ASU (3-8, 1-6) had already executed once on a two-minute drill Saturday -- the Red Wolves marched 73 yards in 1:20 just before halftime, hitting on a 26-yard pass to Lang to grab a 10-3 lead at the break.

This end-of-half sequence didn't begin as smoothly. ASU picked up only a yard on its first three plays before James Blackman linked up with freshman Daverrick Jenkins down the seam for 31 yards, moving the visitors inside the Texas State 10.

The Red Wolves worked the clock on the next two plays, looking to leave little time for the Bobcats if they could not get the touchdown.

On third and goal, Blackman looked to have Lang on a dump-off that just might've gotten ASU over the goal line. But under duress, the pass came up about a foot short of the Red Wolf running back's outstretched hands.

"We've run that play forever," Jones said, noting that the play is a situational call to counter the defense sending everyone that's not in man-to-man coverage. "We've got to execute that."

ASU's defense kept the Red Wolves around for most of the first half. Texas State scored a field goal on its opening series but didn't get on the scoreboard again until the fourth quarter.

The Red Wolves were even worse offensively, at least at the outset.

ASU punted on its first four drives, twice going three-and-out. And after entering the night 2-for-33 on third down in its last three games, the Red Wolves failed to convert on their first four against the Bobcats en route to a 3-for-15 performance.

Hatcher, a former ASU quarterback, finished with 196 yards to Blackman's 237, but Texas State outgained the Red Wolves 144-54 on the ground.

"It's a cumulative effect, even from the first quarter to the second quarter into the third quarter," Jones said. "We didn't make the plays that we needed to win the football game. ... But at the end of the game, it starts with me, and it's inexcusable."

Print Headline: Red Wolves falter late in Texas

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