Michael Gordon propels A-State past Idaho in SBC opener - The Herald: Sports

Michael Gordon propels A-State past Idaho in SBC opener

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  • Senior Running Back Michael Gordon

    Senior Running Back Michael Gordon carries the ball leaving the Vandals behind him during Saturday’s Homecoming game. The Red Wolves would defeat the Idaho Vandals 49-35.

Posted: Sunday, October 4, 2015 9:25 am

The Red Wolves returned to Centennial Bank Stadium to open their Sun Belt conference play against Idaho. For the second week in a row, the A-State defense gave up a touchdown on the opponent’s first possession, though the final in Saturday’s contest was 49-35 A-State.

The Vandals, who were a 22-point underdog, went on an 11 -play 75-yard drive to start the game and scored the game’s first points after handing the ball off to Elijhaa Penny for a one yard rushing TD.

Unlike the September 26th game at Toledo, A-State quickly responded with a touchdown of their own. Warren Wand took the handoff at the 50 and ran into the end zone untouched to tie the score up at 7-7 with 8:46 left in the first quarter.

After the score, the Red Wolves offense hit a wall. To open the second quarter, freshman quarterback James Tabary threw an interception to Idaho’s Chris Edwards, who ran it back 20 yards for an Idaho touchdown. After the PAT, the Vandals went up 14-7.

Not even a minute after Idaho scored, A-State’s running back, Michael Gordon, rushed 59 yards to the end zone to even the score up at 14-14.

“At the beginning of the season, I didn’t really trust the blocking scheme,” Gordon said. “But, I trusted the blocking tonight and just hit it.”

The Red Wolves started their next drive at their own 11, but were in the red zone after three Gordon rushes for a combined 65 yards. Once in the red zone, Johnston White came in at running back and scored a two-yard rushing touchdown. After the Red Wolves went up, they never looked back.

Arkansas State scored once more before the half ended. The Red Wolves ran 6:13 off the clock and ran 19 plays for 91 yards. Gordon rushed for 221 total yards on the night, which was the second most all time by an A-State player at Centennial Bank Stadium. He took it 15 yards to the end zone to put the Red Wolves up 28-14.

Gordon was not the only Red Wolf who moved into the record books Saturday night, however. Senior receiver JD McKissic broke the record for career receptions by a Sun Belt player in the first half.

“I am excited for him,” said Coach Blake Anderson. “He’s a great kid and has worked hard, and after all the injuries he suffered last year, to be healthy and playing as well as he is is exciting.”

McKissic added that it felt good to get the record, but the most import thing was the victory.

After both teams went three-and-out to start the second half, A-State struck again. Tabary completed two passes for 41 yards before handing it off to Gordon, who took it 10 yards for the touchdown.

“Our match-ups inside against their interior guys were better than what we’ve had in the first four weeks,” Anderson said. “We took advantage of those match-ups.”

After Idaho made the score 35-21, Tabary handed it off to Johnson White, who rushed two yards for the score. At the end of the third quarter, the Red Wolves led 42-21.

To start the fourth quarter,Tabary connected with a wide open Tres Houston for a 19 yard touchdown. The TD made the score 49-21. The Red Wolves went on to win 49-35.

“I’m excited to get a conference win,” Anderson said. “I won’t take any win for granted. It was not pretty, but I thought we had a good game-plan defensively and played really well.”

The Red Wolves will next play on Oct. 13 when they travel to University of South Alabama Jaguars in Mobile. The game will be televised on ESPN 2 and will begin at 7 p.m. The Jaguars are 3-2 on the year with wins against Gardner-Webb, San Diego State and Troy.

Meanwhile, Tthe Red Wolves secondary will have their work cut out for them against the USA passing attack. The Jaguars are led by QB Cody Clements who is 69/133 with 926 passing yards.

Clements’ favorite targets are Gerald Everett (18 receptions for 305 yards and three touchdowns) and Josh Magee (10 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns). Although the Jaguars have a really good passing attack (ranked #55 in the nation), they struggle to find the end zone, only averaging 22 points per game.

On the other side of the ball, the Red Wolves offense should have no problem scoring on the South Alabama defense. South Alabama is ranked #103 in total defense. The Jaguars have allowed 1,761 total yards of offense (440 yards per game) so far this season, which includes a total of 856 passing yards (214 yards per game) and 905 rushing yards (226.3 yards per game). South Alabama has also given up a total of 161 points on the year, which averages to 40.4 points per game.

Fredi Knighten will start the game at quarterback for the Red Wolves in Mobile. The senior, who hasn’t played since the Sept. 12th game vs Missouri, practiced with the team leading up to the Idaho game, but was held out by the coaching staff in hopes that the 10 days in between games would give the quarterback time to get back to 100 percent.”The extra days will help get some guys healthy and help us prepare,” Anderson said.“I like playing on Tuesday nights, and I like being the only game on that night. The challenge for us is traveling and learning how to win on the road.“

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