Report Card: Western Kentucky 26, Arkansas State 13

by Daniel McFadin  on Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012 6:13 pm  

(Photo by Staci Vandagriff, Arkansas State University Herald)

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Western Kentucky 26, Arkansas State 13

 A week after putting more than 50 points up against Alcorn State, the Red Wolves took a step back, with the only non-special teams points coming from a 4-yard touchdown pass from freshman Fredi Knighten to Anthony Kincy with nine seconds left in the first half. It was a career first touchdown for both Knighten and Kincy. Senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer finally made his return to the field after being out with an injury since the Oregon opener. Stockemer didn’t appear until ASU’s second drive, was in and out for most of the game because he's not at 100 percent and finished with three catches for 25 yards. Stockemer extended his streak of games with a reception to 34, after entering tied for the second longest active streak in the nation. Freshman J.D. McKissic again led ASU in receiving with eight catches for 79 yards, which gives McKissic at least six receptions in the last four games. McKissic is the go-to receiver it seems when the Red Wolves are in a tricky third down spot.

LOWLIGHTS: The Red Wolves only made three trips inside the 20, stalling on two and having to settle for field goals. It was the second time in three games Ryan Aplin was held without a touchdown pass. Aplin finished 23 of 40 for 204 yards, making it the 25th game he has thrown for 200 yards. Aplin was responsible for both of ASU’s turnovers; throwing an interception with 5:47 left in the third quarter that was returned to the ASU 37 and led to Western Kentucky’s second touchdown. Aplin would later be tackled on an 8-yard run with 4:42 remaining in the fourth quarter, and would have the football forced out and recovered by WKU’s Rammell Lewis. After only giving up three sacks through the first four games, the ASU offensive line gave up four Saturday, with 3.5 coming from Quanterus Smith.

DEFENSE – C plus
 For the first half, ASU’s defense arguably put together its best half all season. The line harassed senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes, putting enough pressure on him to limit him to three of seven passing for 18 yards. It was freshman Eddie Porter with a hard hit of Jakes late in the second quarter that would put the senior out of the game in the second half. The Hilltoppers only converted one third down in the first half while only putting up 104 total yards of offense. Tim Starson and Eddie Porter both found James Mauro for the Red Wolves lone sack.

LOWLIGHTS: When the freshman Mauro came in for Western Kentucky the game changed for ASU. On five of WKU’s seven drives, the Hilltoppers scored, only having to punt once. The Red Wolves gave up 261 yards, with most of it coming from running back Antonio Andrews. Andrews was able to find any hole he needed on his way to scoring one touchdown on top of a career-high 224 yards on 29 carries.

Brian Davis connected on both of his attempts Saturday, hitting field goals of 23 and 33 yards to begin the game. Davis is now eight of 10 on the season and has five consecutive field goals going back to the Memphis game

LOWLIGHTS: In what is proving to be a trend for ASU, a special teams blunder began the downhill slide. Neely Sullivent's punt only went 14 yards before going out of bounds at WKU’s 48. Mauro then led the Hilltoppers on an eight-play drive for their first score. Also, the Red Wolves still couldn’t manage any decent punt return yardage, with Rocky Hayes only gaining 2 yards; but Hayes and Frankie Jackson combined for 66 yards on five kick returns.

The Red Wolves finally played a team closer to their level of talent, but only made that a true statement for one half. Last year’s squad was masterful at making second half corrections in order to keep control of a game, yet Gus Malzahn’s team has yet to put together one consistent game outside of Alcorn State. ASU thrives off the consistency of Aplin, but he hasn’t shown any middle ground. He’s either playing like the Sun Belt Player of the year he can be or missing his targets by a good yard. With the return of Stockemer, perhaps Aplin will make a return to his 2011 self. Also, it should go with out saying the special teams need some major retooling or they will be a thorn in ASU’s side for the rest of the season. ASU only has five days before taking on 1-4 Florida International in the first of three, mid-week games. Perhaps the Red Wolves will benefit from having to refocus their attentions so quickly.

McKissic is only a freshman, yet he is playing like an upperclassman. He’s been Aplin’s favorite target since Stockemer’s been out, getting six catches in each of his last four games. Having the senior back at full strength might reduce those numbers, but having McKissic available doesn’t hurt.

DEFENSE: Senior Don Jones led the team with 12 tackles, which is also a career high. Jones had five solo tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Davis, with his two field goals, might be the most consistent player on the team who isn’t named McKissic.



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