CCU hosts Arkansas State in a Sun Belt showdown
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
Arkansas State 51-17 on Oct. 14, 2017, in Jonesboro, Ark.
Strength: Rushing attack
Weakness: Run defense
Strength: Passing game
Weakness: Run defense
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
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.
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
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).
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.
Arkansas State -6.5
Arkansas State 38, Coastal 34: Justice Hansen and a well-oiled offense will be difficult for the Chants to stop.