ARKST RECORD: 1-1 (W 47-3 against Memphis)
VT RECORD: 2-0 (W 17-10 against ECU)
SCORE: (13) VT – 26 ARKST – 7
GAME SUMMARY: It was an ominous start for the Hokies. On the opening kickoff, return man Dyrell Roberts broke his arm and would be lost for the season. Arkansas State forced a Tech punt, then drove 59 yards to take a 7-0 lead (51 of those yards coming on a Taylor Stockemer reception). The ship would be righted, though, and Tech scored the final 26 points of the game, beginning with a safety caused by Kyle Fuller’s pass-rushing skills. Logan Thomas passed for 292 yards, and Danny Coale had his first 100-yard outing of the season (he finished with 128 yards on seven catches). Jayron Hosley added two more interceptions to his resume, bringing his career total to 11.
LOCK IT IN THE LUNCHPAIL: Aside from Logan Thomas’ rebound from his underwhelming performance against ECU, perhaps the biggest result from this game was the injury to Roberts. Tech’s return game and receiving corps took an obvious blow, but D.J. Coles stepped up, including a beautiful 49-yard catch-and-run that demonstrated his tremendous speed. The legend of George George took flight with an equally impressive 37-yard reception, proving that the Hokie tight ends (George, Drager, and Dunn) would help fill the void. The defense again performed at high level, holding Arkansas State 184 yards below their season average. At this time, not many imagined this victory would eventually be regarded as Tech’s marquee non-conference win. There was no indication whatsoever that ARKST would be a 10-win squad, especially at this point in the season; by nightfall of 17 September, the Sun Belt media darling was Florida International, courtesy of the Panthers’ 3-0 start ( FIU defeated North Texas, Louisville, and UCF) and the exploits of T.Y. Hilton.
ARKST SEASON RECORD: 10-2 (8-0 Sun Belt)
SEASON SUMMARY: Arkansas State went undefeated in conference play after two early season losses to BCS AQ opponents (Illinois and VT), staving off Western Kentucky’s much ballyhooed late-season push for a bowl berth. The Red Wolves rallied to beat WKU in Bowling Green with a Ryan Arpin-to-David Lawson touchdown in the final minute. The loss to Arkansas State would remain WKU’s only conference blemish all season. A balanced team effort – ARKST ranked 26th in total offense and 15th in scoring defense – resulted in only two games after the come-from-behind victory over the Hilltoppers being decided by less than 10 points, a 24-19 win at Louisiana-Monroe and a 30-21 victory over the Rajin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Red Wolves’ 10 wins are a first in Sun Belt conference history, and former coach Hugh Freeze parlayed his team’s gridiron success into a substantial pay raise and a job in Oxford, Mississippi. OHAI Gus Malzahn!
OFFENSIVE MVP: QB Ryan Aplin. 66% - 3235 PYD – 27 TTD.
Not only did Aplin display prowess through the air, he led the Red Wolves in rushing with 605 yards on the ground. The junior quarterback ranked 10th nationally with 320 total yards per game. Like most of the Tigers’ opponents, Aplin had his best game of the season against Memphis, completing over 90% of his passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. Aplin was voted the Sun Belt Player of the Year
DEFENSIVE MVP: DE Brandon Joiner. 40 TCK – 12 SK.
The senior from Killeen, Texas led the Sun Belt conference with 12 sacks and had 15.5 tackles for loss. He terrorized UL-L quarterback Blaine Gautier, sacking him four times in the Red Wolves come-from-behind victory. Joiner was named conference Defensive Player of the Year.