Middle Tennessee State at Arkansas State
Book on Aplin
Quarterback Ryan Aplin pretty much owns the Arkansas State record book. He surpassed his own record of 21 touchdowns in a season (set in 2010) against Middle Tennessee State Saturday with a 59-yard TD pass to Julian Jones in the second quarter. It came a play after the defense stacked up a runner on fourth down at the ASU 41. The senior from Tampa, Fla., went into the game with career marks for total offense (12,004), total offensive plays (1,812), pass attempts (1,359), completions (869), passing yards (10,307), touchdown passes (63), completion percentage (.639), and passing yards per game (229). In addition to the record for touchdown passes in a season, Aplin also owns single-season marks for pass attempts, pass completions, completion percentage, passing yards, passing yards per game, total offense plays, total offense, and total offense per game.
The pressbox rumors by the fourth quarter and somewhat supported by ESPN had Arkansas State headed to the Liberty Bowl against the Conference USA champion. But bowl bids aren’t officially extended until after the final BCS standings are announced on Sunday.
Both Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State were bowl eligible going into Saturday’s game for the Sun Belt Conference championship. Representatives of the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., were at the game. The Sun Belt champion generally is penciled in to play in the New Orleans Bowl, but that bowl has an opt-out clause that can be exercised twice every four years. The New Orleans Bowl chose the University of Louisiana-Lafayette — apparently to secure a hometown crowd. Division I programs must win six games to be eligible for a bowl game; both ASU and MTSU were at 8-3 and 6-1 in the Sun Belt going into Saturday’s game. ASU went into the game on a six-game winning streak.
Arkansas State’s Taylor Stockemer ran his record for consecutive games with a reception to 41 Saturday. The senior from Van Buren went into the Middle Tennessee game with catches in 40 straight games, tied for the third most in the country. Stockemer also holds the career school record for touchdown passes with 16.
Gov. Mike Beebe and Shane Broadway, interim director of the Department of Higher Education, both ASU graduates, were at Saturday’s game. Beebe spoke to the team prior to the ASU-Louisiana-Monroe game. There was no word at game time whether Beebe was speaking to the team again. The game drew other political dignitaries. Sen. John Boozman, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, and state House Speaker-designate Davy Carter, were in attendance .
Arkansas State honored 21 seniors Saturday preceding the game against Middle Tennessee State — the final game of the regular season. Honorees were Ryan Aplin, the do-everything quarterback, and teammates Kevin Galindo, Nathan Herrold, Tausean Holmes, Shervarius Jackson, Josh Jarboe, Don Jones, Anthony Kincy, Cole Lorigan, Zack McKnight, Kedrick Murry, Nick Nelms, Cody Prater, Chaz Scales, Andre Smith, Tim Starson, Taylor Stockemer, Neely Sullivent, Nonathan Victorian, Ryan Wilbourn, and Ronnell Wright. Players , who were joined by their families on the sideline, were presented commemorative footballs.
Neely Sullivent, the Red Wolves punter and one of the seniors honored before Saturday’s game, was the last Arkansas State player to play when the Red Wolves were known as the Indians. The fifth-year senior from Bauxite joined the team as a freshman in 2007, a year before the name change.
Coach Gus Malzahn got a Gatorade bath as the clock ticked down to less than a minute to play Saturday and Malzahn claiming a Sun Belt Conference in his first year as ASU coach. The student section joined players and coaches on the field after the game in celebration.
Oku over 1,000
David Oku, an ASU junior from Midwest City, Okla., went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season against Middle Tennessee State. By the end of the third quarter, Oku had rushed for 96 yards, giving him 1,018 for the season.
A flyover prior to the ASU-Middle Tennessee State game featured the Warthogs of the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Fighter Wing, based in Fort Smith. The A-10 Thunderbolt Warthogs flew over Liberty Bank Stadium just as the National Anthem was completed.
—Dennis A. Byrd
Arkansas News Bureau