This is the teams’ first meeting
Strengths: Receiver, running back
Weakness: Turnover prone
Coastal Carolina’s defense vs. Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen: Coastal has just six sacks and one interception in its first five games, and Hansen has thrown for two or more touchdowns in six consecutive games. The junior is averaging 325 yards passing per game this season despite missing more than a half against SMU after sustaining a lower back injury, and threw for 415 yards in the season opener against Nebraska, completing 46 of 68 passes with three touchdowns. Hansen threw four of his six interceptions this season in a 43-25 win at Georgia Southern last week with limited mobility because of the back injury, but his 12 completions on 26 attempts went for 316 yards for an average of 26.3 yards per completion. “He’s been extremely accurate all year and he wasn’t the other night, and he would tell you he did not feel like he could turn on the ball like he wanted to and it did affect him,” Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson said. “We were fortunate to have won a game with him not at his best and we feel we’ll have him at 100 percent this week.”
Players to watch
Senior quarterback Tyler Keane: The Myrtle Beach High graduate broke out for a career-high 329 yards passing two weeks ago at Louisiana-Monroe and followed it up last week with 239 yards and three touchdowns while completing 18 of 26 attempts.
Senior receiver Chris Jones: After missing two games in concussion protocol, the dangerous punt returner caught two passes last week for 67 yards, including a 45-yarder in limited playing time that should increase Saturday.
Junior safety Fitz Wattley: He leads the team with 39 tackles and also recorded its only interception last week.
Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones: The NFL prospect got his first two sacks of the year and forced a fumble last week to move within one career sack at 32.5 of moving into the top 10 in NCAA FBS history.
Junior tight end Blake Mack: The preseason All-Sun Belt Conference First Team selection has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games, including all four this season.
Senior punt returner Blaise Taylor: At an elusive 5-9 and 166 pounds, Taylor’s 897 career punt return yards are second most in Sun Belt history.
He said it
“They scheduled us for their Homecoming, so our theme this week is to crash the party and that’s what our plan is to go down and do. Our goal was to move up to play better competition. I feel we’re taking those steps. We’ve hit some adversity right now but we’ll pull through.” – CCU junior receiver Omar Black
“I love the team chemistry and the team that we have, the frustrating part is how quickly can they grow up and can they grow up fast enough to continue to win games in a conference I think has gotten so much better in recent years. I think everyone is competitive.” – Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson
“We’ve seen everybody else in our league and have familiarity with them in terms of style of play and talent level. This is a group we’ve never seen before. The offense they run with the system creates a lot of problems in terms of the triple option and the motions and the different sets. … There are definitely some challenges in playing them that you don’t see every week.” – Anderson
Arkansas State has won at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship in five of the past six seasons – 2011, ’12, ’13, ’15 and ’16 – so Coastal Carolina will get to see what the top of the conference looks like. The Red Wolves are 16-1 in the conference since the start of the 2015 season.
Coastal is trying to avoid setting a new record for the program’s longest losing streak. The Chants have dropped four straight games for just the second time in program history, matching a 2012 streak early in head coach Joe Moglia’s first season.
Arkansas State (2-2) has wins over Georgia Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff and losses to Nebraska and SMU. The Red Wolves are a big-play offense. None of their 22 scoring drives have lasted longer than 3 minutes and 40 seconds, and 13 have taken less than two minutes. They generally spread the field offensively and want to run plays at a fast pace. The Chants will try to force the Red Wolves into sustained drives.
“They do a really nice job of when they get a big play or get a first down of really trying to up tempo and get you misaligned and that’s how they get the big plays,” CCU interim head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “If we can keep them in front of us and make them earn drives then I think we have a good chance of slowing them down.
“When they beat people they’ve gotten a turnover on defense and hit a big play within two plays.”
Chadwell believes in order to compete with the Red Wolves and possibly win the game, the Chants must force a couple turnovers, not turn the ball over and sustain some offensive drives – CCU has a 10-4 turnover deficiency through five games – while also winning the special teams battle. The Chants have allowed kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the past two games.
▪ CCU recorded its first interception of the season last week after picking off 21 passes last season.
▪ Arkansas State had some extra days to prepare for CCU because it played last Wednesday at Georgia Southern to accommodate an ESPN2 national broadcast.
▪ Recent Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn are among Arkansas State’s five head coaches over the past eight years.
▪ This is Arkansas State’s Homecoming game. It has won 13 of its last 14 on Homecoming, including six in a row by 10 points or more.
Arkansas State -17
Arkansas State 44, Coastal Carolina 24: A trip to the perennial Sun Belt Conference champion will be too much for Coastal Carolina to handle.
Who: Coastal Carolina (1-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) at Arkansas State (2-2, 1-0 Sun Belt)
When: 7 p.m. (Eastern)
Where: Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Ark.
TV: Live online on ESPN3
Live stats: Through www.goccusports.com GameTracker
Radio: WRNN 99.5-FM