By Rick Poulter
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s note: This story is courtesy of Texas State athletics.
JONESBORO, AK. — Texas State committed early mistakes Saturday against the Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State Red Wolves and were never able to overcome them in a 55-17 loss to end the season.
Arkansas State (9-3, 8-0) clinched the Sun Belt Conference title with the victory, finishing a game ahead of Appalachian State.
C.J. Best led the team in receiving with eight catches for 95 yards while adding 35 more yards rushing on just four carries with a touchdown to put together an impressive individual performance in the final game of his career.
Freshman running back Nick Bingham added another touchdown before it was over. Tyler Siudzinski led the team in rushing with 41 yards. Tyler Jones threw for 129 yards on 11-of-17 passing and ran for 36 yards on 14 carries.
On defense, Camyron Brown led the team with eight tackles, six of which were solo stops. He also added a tackle for loss while Rusmin Nikocevic added 1.5 tackles for loss.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Arkansas State took the opening drive 75 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 3-yard run from ASU’s Michael Gordon, to go up 7-0 early. After a 3-and-out for the Texas State offense, the Red Wolves went 70 yards on just four plays to push the lead to 14-0.
A third-and-one run of 29 yards from Gordon set up a 32-yard touchdown pass to Chris Murray for Arkansas State.
Texas State’s defense stepped up to make a stop on third-and-10 on ASU’s third drive of the game, and then the offense drove all the way to the Red Wolves’ three-yard line to knock on the door of the end zone. Unfortunately, ASU made an interception with a 99-yard return for a touchdown. With a missed extra point, the defensive touchdown put the Red Wolves up, 20-0, with 12:17 left in the half.
After the big turnover, the Bobcats responded with a 75-yard drive on just six plays. Tyler Jones ran around the left side for a big 34-yard gainer to bring Texas State to the ASU 24-yard line. Two plays later, C. J. Best bulled his way into the end zone on a 12-yard run for Texas State’s first touchdown of the day and the senior’s first rushing TD of the season to make it 20-7.
The Red Wolves answered Texas State’s touchdown with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by a Warren Wand six-yard rushing touchdown to put Arkansas State up, 27-7, with 5:12 left to play in the first half. Gordon carried ASU on the drive with runs of four and 17 yards and catches of 12 and 18 yards. Gordon’s 12-yard catch on fourth-and-three kept Arkansas State’s scoring drive alive.
Trying to answer, Texas State faced a third-and-seven from the team’s own 28-yard line when Jones found Brandon Smith for a 27-yard gain on a nice pitch-and-catch for the Bobcats.
Later, on a third-and-11, Jones tossed it to Best in the middle of the field for a gain of 17 yards to keep the drive moving for Texas State. Best kept it up for the Bobcats with a huge 23-yard catch on fourth-and-10 to keep the drive alive and pull Texas State to the ASU 5-yard line.
A sack for a loss of 11 yards and a false start for the Bobcats forced a third-and-21. Jones, under pressure, made what could have been the throw of the game, but a dropped pass in the end zone brought up fourth down for Texas State. On fourth down, the Bobcats lined up for a field goal, but the Red Wolves blocked their third field goal of the season to keep the score at 27-7 going into halftime.
After another ASU touchdown in the third quarter, a Bobcat drive stalled, but Texas State recovered a punt after it had touched an Arkansas State player.
With the great field position, Lumi Kaba added three points for the Bobcats on a 46-yard field goal to make the score, 34-10, with 8:15 left to play in the third quarter.
Arkansas State would go on to score another touchdown, but the Bobcats answered with a 7-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. Freshman quarterback Connor White took over with a 19-yard run in the drive as well as completions to Best for 17 yards and Jafus Gaines for 29 yards.
With the work, White made the longest run of his young career and produced his most passing yards in a game during his time at Texas State. Freshman running back Nick Bingham capped the drive with a 10-yard run for a touchdown, the first of his career, to make it 41-17.
The Red Wolves would add two more touchdowns before it was all over to claim a 55-17 victory over Texas State in the season finale.
WHO STOOD OUT: With 9:38 left in the first half, C. J. Best ran for a 12-yard touchdown, his first rushing TD of the season … Best finished with eight catches for 95 yards to lead the team in receiving and 35 rushing yards on just four carries … Tyler Siudzinski led the team in rushing with 41 yards on 12 carries … Freshman quarterback Connor White took over in the third quarter for his first action since Georgia Southern on Oct. 29. He made the longest run of his career and threw for his most yards in a game … Lumi Kaba kicked a field goal of 46 yards for his fourth field goal of the season of 40+ yards … Freshman running back Nick Bingham scored the first touchdown of his career on a 10-yard run with 8:29 left to play.
WHAT IT MEANS: Texas State ends its season at 3-9 overall and 2-6 in Sun Belt Conference action.