The Thursday night game on ESPN features another clash of Sun Belt Conference rivals this week.
Arkansas State raised their record to a 3-2 mark on the season in last Thursday’s game on ESPN with their 59-52 victory at home over Georgia State. The Red Wolves generated 609 yards of offense in this shootout while giving up 583 yards to the Panthers.
Head coach Blake Anderson is disproving the conventional wisdom frowning upon rotating quarterbacks. His offense produced 551 passing yards with eight touchdown passes last week. Sophomore Layne Hatcher completed 21 of 28 passes for 332 yards with four touchdowns, with junior Logan Bonner completed 18 of 28 passes for 197 yards with another three touchdown passes. Neither quarterback threw an interception (and wide receiver Roshauud Paul threw the final touchdown pass on a trick play). Bonner was the starting quarterback for the first four games last season before he suffered a season-ending hand injury, which provided Hatcher the opportunity to play with the former Alabama transfer averaging 294.6 passing yards-per-game the rest of the way, which was 8th best in the nation. Hatcher is completing 63.3% of his passes this season for 896 yards with a 9.0 yards-per-attempt passing average along with ten touchdown passes and one interception. But Anderson continues to rotate quarterbacks because Bonner is completing 63.9% of his passes for 938 yards with a 7.0 yards-per-attempt average along with 11 touchdown pass to three interceptions.
Anderson is not content with the play of his defense as he fired second-year defensive coordinator David Duggan along with defensive pass game coordinator Ed Pinkham after the Georgia State game. Arkansas State is second-to-last in the Sun Belt Conference by allowing 39.8 points-per-game while ranking last in the conference by giving up 481.8 yards-per-game. Georgia State quarterback C.J. Brown IV passed for 314 yards against the Red Wolves defense with three touchdown passes, and he added another 83 rushing yards with another two touchdowns on the ground.
Anderson may have chosen the wrong week to rework Arkansas State’s pass defense when now facing an Appalachian State team that is fifth in the nation by averaging 269.3 rushing yards-per-game. The Mountaineers will take the field for the first time since September 26th when they defeated Campbell by a 52-21 score. Appalachian State has also defeated Charlotte, with their loss being at Marshall in a battle of perhaps the best two non-power five conference teams this season.
The Mountaineers returned 13 starters from last year’s team that finished the season 13-1. Appalachian State became the first Sun Belt team to defeat two power-five conference opponents last year with their victories over North Carolina and South Carolina. Their lone loss was to Georgia Southern. Senior quarterback Zac Thomas is completing 62.3% of his passes this season. The third-year starter completed 62.7% of his passes last year for 2718 yards with 28 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. The Mountaineers defense allows 19.3 points-per-game along with 323.3 yards-per-game after giving up 20.0 points-per-game along with 336.1 yards-per-game last season.
Arkansas State is 1-1 in conference play with their loss to Coastal Carolina. Their second loss this season was at Memphis, but they have a quality non-conference victory on their resume with a 35-31 win at Kansas State. Appalachian State has yet to play a conference game this season. BetAnySports
lists the Mountaineers as a 13-point favorite with the total set at 66.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 7:30 PM ET.