CCU hosts Arkansas State in a Sun Belt show­down

The Sun News - - Front Page - BY ALAN BLONDIN ablondin@the­sun­news.com

SATUR­DAY’S GAME

Who: Arkansas State (5-4, 2-3 Sun Belt) at Coastal Carolina (5-4, 2-3 Sun Belt)

When: 5 p.m. (Eastern)

Where: Brooks Sta­dium, Con­way

Oc­ca­sion: Hall of Fame Week­end

TV: Live on­line on ESPN+

Ra­dio: WRNN 99.5-FM

On­line au­dio: http://por­tal.stretch­in­ter­net.com/coastal/

Live stats: Through www.goc­cus­ports.com Game-Tracker

LAST MEET­ING

Arkansas State 51-17 on Oct. 14, 2017, in Jones­boro, Ark.

Coastal Carolina

Strength: Rush­ing at­tack

Weak­ness: Run de­fense

Arkansas State

Strength: Pass­ing game

Weak­ness: Run de­fense

KEY MATCHUP

Arkansas State quar­ter­back Jus­tice Hansen vs. Coastal Carolina’s de­fen­sive back­field: Hansen is the Sun Belt Con­fer­ence’s 2017 Of­fen­sive Player of the Year and 2018 pre­sea­son Of­fen­sive Player of the Year. Last year, he threw for 286 yards and five touch­downs against the Chan­ti­cleers. Last week, in a 38-14 win over South Alabama, he ac­counted for four touch­downs, and Justin McInnis had seven catches for 177 yards and a touch­down. The Red Wolves av­er­age 286.8 pass­ing yards per game, which leads the Sun Belt and is 19th in the na­tion among FBS schools. That has con­trib­uted to 468 yards of of­fense per game, which is tops in the con­fer­ence and 21st in the na­tion.

Coastal has ex­pe­ri­ence and depth in the de­fen­sive back­field and has been de­cent against the pass, al­low­ing 218 yards per game to rank fourth in the con­fer­ence and 52nd na­tion­ally. But that is par­tially be­cause teams have been able to run on the Chants, who al­low 224.4 yards rush­ing per game, which is 116th among 129 FBS teams. Hansen may test the pass de-

fense more, though he’s also a threat to run. He has 373 yards rush­ing and 2,397 pass­ing to lead the Sun Belt with 307.8 yards of to­tal of­fense per game. “We have to make sure we al­ways know where he is, we have to con­tain him and not give him too much time to throw the ball,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said of Hansen.

PLAY­ERS TO WATCH

Coastal Carolina

Se­nior run­ning back Mar­cus Out­low: The 5-10, 205-pound Bos­ton Col­lege trans­fer leads the Chants with 661 rush­ing yards and eight touch­downs on 131 car­ries for an av­er­age of 5.0 yards per rush. He also has 10 catches for 65 yards.

Sopho­more run­ning back Tor­rance “C.J.” Marable: The 5-10, 190pound Pres­by­te­rian trans­fer is av­er­ag­ing 6.8 yards per carry with 575 yards and six TDs on 84 car­ries.

Sopho­more line­backer Teddy Gal­lagher: In the past two games, the 6-1, 235-pounder from Los An­ge­les has a team-high 22 tack­les, in­clud­ing 18 solo stops and four tack­les for a loss of yards.

Arkansas State

Se­nior quar­ter­back Jus­tice Hansen: The 6-4, 225-pound fifth-year se­nior has com­pleted 203 of 317 passes for 2,397 yards with 18 touch­downs and six in­ter­cep­tions, and has av­er­aged 3.8 yards per rush with six touch­downs on 99 car­ries.

Ju­nior re­ceiver Kirk Mer­ritt: The 6-foot, 215pound Louisiana na­tive has 52 re­cep­tions for 517 yards with three touch­downs for the Red Wolves’ most catches through nine games since 2013.

Se­nior de­fen­sive end Ron­heen Bing­ham: At 6-2 and 242 pounds, Bing­ham is tied for the Sun Belt lead with 13.5 tack­les for loss, and 39 of his 52 tack­les have come in the past five games.

HE SAID IT

“We had some missed as­sign­ments, missed tack­les, things like that [last week], but we’re feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent right now and we’ll try to keep it rolling into the last few games of the reg­u­lar sea­son . . . . They dis­trib­ute the ball re­ally well to all their play­mak­ers and they get their guys in space, so open-field tack­ling and hav­ing to bring guys down in space is prob­a­bly one of the big­gest is­sues we’re go­ing to have to face this week.” – CCU sopho­more line­backer Teddy Gal­lagher

“I like our prepa­ra­tion as far as the week goes. I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort and at­ti­tude of our play­ers. I like the way the coaches are think­ing and ap­proach­ing this spe­cific game. At the end of the day we know they’re a good team, but we’re go­ing to give them ev­ery­thing they want when they come down here.” — CCU coach Joe Moglia

“There’s still a glim­mer of hope that it will work back our way, and wouldn’t it be sad if we didn’t take care of our busi­ness and the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self. They all came here want­ing to play for ti­tles, and we’ve won plenty but we want to keep win­ning more. So I think in the back of their mind they’re won­der­ing, ‘What do we got to do to have a chance?’ And what we’ve got to do to have a chance is win out. It’s play­off men­tal­ity at this point.” — Arkansas State coach Blake An­der­son

SCOUT­ING RE­PORT

For the se­cond con­sec­u­tive week, Coastal is in a game in which the win­ner will be el­i­gi­ble for a bowl game, as both teams en­ter with five wins. Last week, it was Ap­palachian State that qual­i­fied for a bowl with a 23-7 win.

Arkansas State has been to bowl games in seven straight sea­sons, and has won at least seven games in each of fifth-year head coach Blake An­der­son’s first four sea­sons. Though the Red Wolves are just 2-3 in the con­fer­ence, the West Di­vi­sion is up for grabs with Louisiana-Mon­roe lead­ing at 3-2 and both Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette one game back.

Arkansas State hosts ULM next week and closes the reg­u­lar sea­son with a poor Texas State team, so it can still reach the in­au­gu­ral Sun Belt Con­fer­ence Cham­pi­onship Game.

“We’re just re­ally fo­cused on try­ing to fin­ish well and give our­selves an­other bowl sea­son and give our­selves an op­por­tu­nity to wig­gle back into the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship race,” Arkansas State coach Blake An­der­son said. “We’re just try­ing to con­trol what we can con­trol.”

The Chan­ti­cleers may again rely heav­ily on fresh­man quar­ter­back Fred Pay­ton. Both Pay­ton and se­nior QB Kil­ton An­der­son are ex­pected to play, though An­der­son may still be both­ered by a high an­kle sprain and may not start.

An­der­son hasn’t been sharp in his ap­pear­ances since in­jur­ing his an­kle in the fourth game of the sea­son, and Pay­ton has com­pleted 30 of 43 passes for 442 yards with three touch­downs and two in­ter­cep­tions, and has also gained 106 yards on 32 car­ries.

De­spite sea­son lows in yards and points last week, the CCU of­fense still ranks third in the Sun Belt in rush­ing of­fense (231.7 yards per game) and se­cond in both first downs (197) and third-down con­ver­sion per­cent­age (42.9 per­cent).

NOTES

Coastal ranks eighth in the coun­try in time of pos­ses­sion at 33:47 min­utes per game, and has had the ball more than 34 min­utes in five of its last six games, with the ex­cep­tion be­ing last week.

Coastal is play­ing its fourth home game com­pared to six road games, and is 1-2 at Brooks Sta­dium.

Arkansas State has been undis­ci­plined this sea­son, av­er­ag­ing 73.8 penalty yards per game com­pared to 40.8 for Coastal.

Arkansas State usu­ally plays well late in the sea­son, hav­ing won 22 of its last 27 games played in the month of Novem­ber.

Though Arkansas State is 0-2 on the road in the con­fer­ence this sea­son with losses to Ge­or­gia South­ern and Louisiana, the Red Wolves have still won 23 of their last 30 league road games.

LINE

Arkansas State -6.5

PRE­DIC­TION

Arkansas State 38, Coastal 34: Jus­tice Hansen and a well-oiled of­fense will be dif­fi­cult for the Chants to stop.

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