ASU wins third straight; becomes bowl eligible

JONESBORO — Michael Gordan may have run Arkansas State right into a bowl game.

Time will tell.

Gordon and Arkansas State showed the best rushing defense in the Sun Belt Conference how running the football is done, and the Red Wolves earned bowl eligibility with a 38-21 victory over Texas State Saturday night at Liberty Bank Stadium.

ASU (6-4 overall, 4-1 Sun Belt) won its third straight as running Gordon rushed for a career-high 184 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 9.7 yards a carry and was often times the fastest player on the field.
The Red Wolves finished with 426 yards offense, including 328 on the ground — the most allowed by Texas State all season. It was also the most rushing yards by ASU against a Division I FBS opponent this season.
Arkansas State also won with defense with another impressive second-half showing.
After shutting out Louisiana-Monroe in the second half last week of a 42-14 win, the Red Wolves held Texas State scoreless in the second half. ASU has outscored its opponents 62-13 in the second half of its last four games.
The Bobcats marched at will in the first half, scoring three times and rolling up over 200 yards offense, but couldn’t sustain a drive that resulted in points after the halftime break.
With the win, Arkansas State took another step towards a third straight bowl trip.
While there were no bowl scouts on hand, ASU dominated the league’s most dominant rushing defense and maintained sole possession of second place in the Sun Belt Conference.
The Red Wolves didn’t have to rely on quarterback Adam Kennedy as much as previously, either.
Kennedy ran for 78 yards on 18 carries but was just 14-of-18 passing for 96 yards and one TD. He was picked off once.
The two teams played to a 21-21 tie in the first half before ASU dominated the second half.
Arkansas State outscored the Bobcats 24-0 to end the game, including 17-0 in the second half. Texas State manged 152 yards offense after the break but couldn’t get on the scoreboard.
The Bobcats (6-4, 2-3) had six possessions in the second half but only penetrated ASU’s red zone just once. They came up empty on that trip when a fourth-down fake field goal failed to make a first down.
Arkansas State took its first lead midway through the third quarter on Gordon’s third touchdown run of the night.
Gordon’s TD was set up by J.D. McKissic’s 43-yard punt return that gave the Red Wolves good field at the Texas State 32. It took only four plays from there with Gordon making a remarkable run to get into the end zone.
Gordon took a handoff to his right, bounced off two defenders, spun and ran into the end zone for a 16-yard play. Brian Davis’ point-after kick put ASU in front 28-21 with 7:57 to play in the third quarter.
The Red Wolves took control on their next possession with another long scoring drive.
ASU kept the ball on the ground all but one play of the 13-play drive. Kennedy completed a short pass to tight end Darion Griswold to begin the drive and the Red Wolves ran it 12 straight snaps to get into the end zone.
Gordon ripped off a 29-yard run the get the Red Wolves across midfield. Nine running plays later, David Oku scored on a 1-yard run for a 35-21 lead with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
ASU caught a break a couple of minutes later after forcing Texas State into a punt situation.
TSU punter Zach Robinson inadvertently took the deep snap with his knee on the ground, giving Arkansas State the football with a first-and-goal situation at the 10.
ASU was unable to cash in for a touchdown, but Davis remained perfect on the season, splitting the uprights on a 23-yard field goal for a 38-21 lead with 12:14 to play.
Texas State jumped on ASU first after stopping the Red Wolves on fourth-and-1 near midfield.
ASU had already made one fourth-down conversion and decided to try it again at their own 45. But quarterback Adam Kennedy was stuffed for no gain and Texas State took over.
The Bobcats needed just two plays to score as quarterback Tyler Jones faked a handoff, then hit running back Terrance Franks on a wheel route deep down the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Arkansas State wasted no time tying it.
The Red Wolves took possession at their own 30 and scored in three plays with running back Michael Gordon doing the bulk of the damage. Gordon gained nine yards on first down and Allen Muse pulled in a 21-yard pass to Texas State 40 for a first down.
Gordon then ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run on the very same play as before, exploding to the left end and out-racing the Bobcats down the sideline to make to pull ASU even, 7-7, with 9:22 to play in the opening quarter.
Texas State came right back with another scoring drive, though, keeping the ball on the ground for all but one play.
The Bobcats moved 59 yards on nine plays, the highlight coming on a 25-yard pass play to tight end Ryan Carden to put the ball at the ASU 20. Two plays later, Franks bulled his way through the left side of the line for a 4-yard TD and 14-7 Texas State lead.
Arkansas State was forced to punt on its next possession, but got the ball back by forcing Texas State into its first punt.
The Red Wolves followed with a 12-play 80-yard drive to pull even. They kept the ball on the ground all the way with Kennedy’s lone pass attempt sailing incomplete.
Gordon cracked the 100-yard rushing mark on the series and capped the drive with an 8-yard TD run up the middle to make it 14-14 with 12:44 to play in the half. Kennedy sold a fake to back in motion, then handed to Gordon who blew through a huge hole and the end zone as the Bobcats overpursued ASU’s first option.
Arkansas State’s only turnover of the half was costly.
Facing third-and-9 at his own 21, Kennedy scrambled away from pressure but threw into coverage and was intercepted by David Mayo to give Texas State the ball at the ASU 22.
The Bobcats needed three plays to score and took a 21-14 lead on a nice play-action pass with 5:35 left in the half.
Jones faked a handoff up the middle, rolled right, stopped and threw back to his left to Carden who was wide open in the flat. Carden turned and jogged into the end zone for a 7-yard TD untouched.
Arkansas State took its next possession and marched 71 yards on 10 plays to tie the score 21-21 ith 1:13 to play in the half.
Kennedy worked the ball to J.D. McKissic on several short passes while Oku and Gordon pounded the ball between the tackles on the drive. McKissic’s 19-yard reception to the 8 set up first-and-goal, and he scored one play later on an 8-yard shovel pass as he came across the field in motion, caught the pass and hit the pylon before going out of bounds.
ASU had 273 yards offense in the first half, including 199 on the ground. Gordon did most of the damage, rushing for 122 yards and two TDs on 11 carries.