Looking Ahead to Ark State
Looking Ahead to Ark State
Arkansas State (4-2, 2-0) hosts North Texas (2-4, 1-1)
October 21, 2006
Indian Stadium (30,406) Jonesboro, Ark. 6:10 p.m. (CST)
Radio: Arkansas State Radio Network (KCJF 103.9 FM, flagship)
Television: ESPN Regional
ON TAP: Arkansas State will resume Sun Belt Conference play this weekend when it returns to Indian Stadium to host North Texas in a 6:10 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPN Regional. Every Arkansas State game can be heard live on 103.9 FM in the Jonesboro area and the live radio broadcast can be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic web site (ASUIndians.com).
THE PRINCIPALS: Arkansas State heads into its seventh game of the season on a three-game winning streak and holding its first 2-0 start in Sun Belt Conference action since 2002, head coach Steve Roberts? first season with the Indians. Dating back to last season, ASU has won its last four Sun Belt Conference games and its last seven games at Indian Stadium. North Texas is set for its first Sun Belt Conference road game after posting a 1-1 record at Fouts Field in its first two league games, including a 25-22 seven-overtime victory against FIU on Oct. 7 that tied an NCAA record for number of overtimes played. North Texas, coming off an open week, won the Sun Belt Conference title and went to the New Orleans Bowl from 2001-04.
THE COACHES: Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts is in his fifth year at Arkansas State after leading the Indians to the Sun Belt Conference championship and New Orleans Bowl last year. He has guided ASU to 24 wins since his arrival. Even with half its 2006 schedule remaining, the ASU football program?s 24 victories during Roberts? first five years at the helm are its most over a five-year span since winning 33 from 1986-1990. Roberts was named the 2005 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey, a four-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, suffered a mild heart attack last week and is under daily consultation with his doctors. A timeline for his return has not been set. Assistant coach Kenny Evans, in his ninth year with the program, will fill in for Dickey on an interim basis.
SCOUTING THE MEAN GREEN: North Texas will be trying for its first road victory of the season Saturday after dropping its first three against nationally ranked Texas, Tulsa and Akron. It?s two victories this season both came at Fouts Field, defeating SMU 24-6 and FIU 25-22 in seven overtimes. The Mean Green offense boasts a former national rushing champion in Jamario Thomas, who is third in the Sun Belt in rushing yards per game (76.3 ypg), and three-time All-Sun Belt Conference wide receiver Johnny Quinn. Quinn has caught at least one pass in all 42 games of his career, the third longest streak in the NCAA among active players. The North Texas defense is led by linebacker Maurice Holman (47 tackles) and safety Aaron Weathers (39 tackles), ranking fifth and sixth, respectively, in tackles among all Sun Belt players.
THE NORTH TEXAS SERIES: North Texas leads the all-time series that dates back to 1983, 8-7. Arkansas State snapped a five-game skid to the Mean Green last season with a 31-24 second half comeback victory in Denton to end the 2005 regular season and clinch a berth to the New Orleans Bowl.
OLD TIES: While Arkansas State and North Texas have met the past five seasons as Sun Belt Conference opponents, it is not the first time the two teams have shared a league. Both the Indians and the Mean Green were members of the Big West Conference from 1999-2000 and the Southland Conference from 1983-1986.
THE LAST TIME vs. NORTH TEXAS: DENTON, Texas (11/26/05) - Antonio Warren returned from a second-quarter injury to score the game winning touchdown with 30 seconds remaining in the game as Arkansas State defeated North Texas, 31-24, and claimed a spot in the New Orleans Bowl.
ASU had to wait around for the invite to be official since Louisiana-Monroe had to lose to Louisiana-Lafayette to make the invite complete, but the Ragin? Cajuns made quick work of their neighbors from the North. The bowl game was the first time the Indians played in any type of postseason football since 1986 during the 1-AA powerhouse days.
The game seemed bound for overtime after the Mean Green knotted the score at 24 with just 5:24 left to play. Matt Phillips found James Mitchell alone in the endzone for a four yard touchdown toss to seemingly take the steam out of the Indians.
But Warren and company found a way to move the ball 63 yards in seven plays. Warren ended the day with 19 carries for 105 yards. Those totals put the senior from Wynne over 1,000 yards for the season and over 3,000 for his career. Shermar Bracey added another 100-yard effort as well, scampering 139 yards on just 14 carries, highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the second half that helped the Indians set a positive tone after a disappointing first half.
On defense, Tyrell Johnson?s 25 tackles on the day was the second-most in school history. Only the legendary Bill Bergey?s 33 total tackles against Eastern Michigan in 1968 ranks higher at ASU. The total is also a SBC record.
ASU finished the regular season with a winning record, the first since 1995 when the team went an identical 6-5, but three of those victories were against 1-AA teams.
ARKANSAS STATE vs. SUN BELT CONFERENCE: Arkansas State is 47-44-1 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. Since the league?s inaugural football season in 2001, the Indians are 18-17 against all opponents that have been a member of the league. Against current members of the conference, ASU is 13-13 since 2001. The Indians hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Lafayette with 16, while its most victories against a Sun Belt opponent since 2001 is Louisiana-Monroe with four. The Indians have defeated every team in the Sun Belt Conference since the football league was formed in 2001.
ON THIS DATE: Arkansas State has played six times on October 21 since the 1961 season and holds a 2-4 record in those games. The last time ASU played on the date was 2000, and the Indians fell 35-29 against New Mexico State in overtime. ASU dropped its last two games played on the date, and its last victory was a 6-3 win over McNeese State in 1978. ASU's other victory on Oct. 21 was a 24-14 win over Abilene Christian in 1967. ASU?s last four games played on the date have been decided by six points or less.
THE LAST TIME OUT: MEMPHIS, Tenn. (10/14/06) ? With the clock reading :00, Arkansas State receiver Patrick Higgins jumped high in the end zone among a throng of Memphis defenders to catch a 53-yard pass from quarterback Corey Leonard to lead the Indians to a come-from-behind 26-23 victory over Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. Higgins had two catches on the day for 79 yards. Running back Cedric Wilkerson, subbing for an injured Reggie Arnold, surprised the Memphis defense by picking up 116 yards on 23 carries, 74 of which were in the second quarter. Leonard finished the day completing 12 of 23 passes for 219 yards and two interceptions. After leading the entire first half, 17-6, things looked grim for ASU late in the game after Memphis had erased the lead to 23-20 in favor of the Tigers when UM receiver Ryan Scott threw a 37-yard touchdown strike to Joseph Doss on the flea flicker. A few plays later, ASU?s fate appeared to be sealed when Leonard was intercepted by UM?s Heath Grant with just over four minutes left in the game. A pass interference penalty against the Indians set up Memphis? first score, a 28-yard field goal by Matt Reagan with 10:38 left in the first quarter. ASU struck back at 5:38 with a 16-yard run by freshman receiver Brandon Thompkins. Josh Arauco connected on the point after to give ASU the 7-3 lead. Higgins added another TD early in the second period at 13:31 on a 26-yard pass from Leonard. Arauco had a couple of field goals of 33 and 27 yards. The third quarter belonged to the Tigers when Duke Calhoun scored on a 49-yard pass play from quarterback Martin Hankins and a 28-yard field goal by Reagan to cut ASU?s lead to 17-16. Following the Scott-to-Doss play, Leonard threw the football up for grabs resulting in the winning catch. There was a short delay as officials reviewed the play, but the result was the same.
ROBERTS CLIMBING VICTORIES LADDER: In his first five seasons as the Indians head coach, Steve Roberts already has the fifth most victories among ASU?s 26 all-time head coaches with 24. Larry Lacewell (1979-89) holds the record for victories with 69 and is followed by Bennie Ellender (1963-70) with 52 wins, Bill Davidson (1971-78) with 51 and Forrest England (1946-53) with 49.
ROBERTS IN CLOSE GAMES: Fifth-year skipper Steve Roberts has seen numerous close games during his tenure with the Indians, holding a 14-6 record in games decided by eight points or less (37 percent of all his games). Roberts? teams have been especially successful recently in games decided by just one score, holding an 12-3 record in its last 15 games that ended under those circumstances. Following is his record in close games:
Margin Roberts record
1 point 1-0
2 points 1-0
3 points 4-3
4 points 3-1
5 points 0-1
6 points 2-0
7 points 2-1
8 points 1-0
ROBERTS AND INDIAN STADIUM: Arkansas State head coach Steve Roberts has led the Indians to a 16-5 record at Indian Stadium over the last five years for a .761 winning percentage. Not only that, the Indians have won their last seven home games for their longest home winning streak since capturing 17 in a row from 1984-86.
MILESTONe Victory at Indian Stadium: Arkansas State?s 10-6 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 7 was the 100th victory for the Indians in their home stadium. ASU now stands at 100-63-1 all-time at Indian Stadium.
17 AND UNDER: Arkansas State holds a 13-2 record under head coach Steve Roberts when holding its opponents to 17 points or less. However, ASU is 11-28 over the last five seasons when allowing 17 or more points. The Indians have won their last 10 consecutive games when holding their opponent to 17 or fewer points and has won 25 straight games when holding their opponents to 10 or fewer points.
LEONARD NAMED SUN BELT CONFERENCE OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Arkansas State redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard (Covington, La.) threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns, both career highs, in a 26-23 road victory over Memphis, earning him Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday. Leonard threw a 53-yard touchdown bomb with time expired in the fourth quarter to lift ASU to a three-point victory over its oldest rival, Memphis. He completed 12-of-23 passes and in addition to his 219 yards through the air, also added 35 yards on the ground that included a career-best 20 yard run during a third-quarter drive that helped set up a field goal. Leonard completed passes to six different receivers and had four passes go for at least 25 yards, including a 26-yard scoring strike to receiver Patrick Higgins. He had three rushes of 10 or more yards as helped ASU dominate time of possession (34:25 to 25:20) and pick up its first win over Memphis since 1989.
BEST SUN BELT START: With its win over ULM, Arkansas State matched its best-ever start in Sun Belt Conference play. The Indians stand 2-0 in league play, matching the 2002 start that was accomplished in Steve Roberts? first year as head coach. ASU has never won its first three Sun Belt Conference games.
SUN BELT STREAK: Dating back to last season, ASU has won four consecutive Sun Belt Conference games. That is the longest winning streak ever by ASU in the Sun Belt. The last time ASU won four or more consecutive games in any league was 1985-86 when it won 10 Southland Conference games in a row.
BEST OVERALL START IN MORE THAN A DECADE: With its 26-23 win over Memphis, ASU matched its best start since 1989 when it was 4-2 as well. The last time ASU was 5-2 or better through its first seven games was 1987 (5-2).
THREE IN A ROW: Arkansas State has won three consecutive games for the first time since the 2002 season, head coach Steve Roberts? first season with the Indians. The last time ASU won four straight games was 1995.
BREAKING THE TREND: ASU's victory over Army was its first over a non-conference Division I-A opponent since defeating Tulsa 21-19 in 2002. With its victory over Memphis last Saturday, ASU has now defeated two non-conference Division I-A opponents in the same season for the first time since returning to Division I-A in 1992.
REVERSING ITS FORTUNE AGAINST THE TIGERS: Arkansas State defeated Memphis for the first time since 1989, snapping a 10-game skid to the Tigers. Redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard threw a 53-yard bomb that receiver Patrick Higgins came down with in a crowd with no time left in the game to give ASU a 26-23 win in dramatic fashion. The play was reviewed, but the touchdown was still awarded to the Indians.
TURNING IT AROUND ON THE ROAD: With victories over Florida International and Memphis in its last two road games, ASU has won two consecutive road games in the same season for the first time since 1988. The Tribe, which posted a 1-4 record in road games last season, is 2-1 this year in true road games.
CONTROLLING THE CLOCK: The Indians have won the time of possession battle in all six games this season, and lead the Sun Belt Conference in time of possession at 33:49. That figure also ranks the Indians at No. 2 nationally.
FAN INTEREST: Arkansas State is averaging 21,105 in attendance through its first two games at Indian Stadium.
FIVE-YEAR IMPROVEMENT: Since head coach Steve Roberts arrival in 2002, Arkansas State?s football program has seen its win total increase by almost 100 percent over the previous five years.
THOMPKINS TAKES OVER: While true freshman receiver Brandon Thompkins scored his first touchdown in an Indians uniform on offense last game, he might have made his biggest impact in the game returning kicks. Thompkins returned five kickoffs for a career-high 131 yards, which is also the sixth most for a single game in school history. He has nine returns for 229 yards for the entire season and is averaging 25.4 yards per return, the 28th best average in the nation.
EFFICIENT NUMBERS: While redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard has not put up flashy numbers this season, he has produced numbers that are the most efficient in the Sun Belt Conference. Leonard has completed 42-of-79 attempts (53.2 pct.) for 552 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions, giving him a Sun Belt Conference best 114.3 pass efficiency rating.
OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: Arkansas State posted a season-high 435 yards of total offense last game, including a season-high 219 yards passing. It?s previous high was 372 yards against Louisiana-Monroe. ASU is ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense with 317.7 yards per game. It has posted 300 or more offensive yards in four of its six games.
MAKING IT COUNT: While receiver Patrick Higgins caught just two passes against Memphis last Saturday, he made both of them count. He scored on a 26-yard strike from quarterback Corey Leonard and also caught the game-winning pass, a 53-yard reception with no time remaining in the game. Higgins has posted the two longest plays by an ASU player this season, his 53-yard reception last game and a 69-yard touchdown reception against SMU.
RISING STAR: Arkansas State redshirt freshman tailback Reggie Arnold leads the Sun Belt in rushing with an average of 87.0 yards per game. That figure is also good enough to rank Arnold at No. 33 nationally.
WILKERSON HAS CAREER GAME: In his very young career, redshirt freshman Cedric Wilkerson had his biggest game of the year against Memphis last Saturday. Wilkerson carried the ball 23 times for a career-high 116 yards and added 23 receiving yards on two catches. Wilkerson gave ASU a 100-yard rusher for the third time in its first six games.
MOVING UP: ASU Junior wide receiver Levi Dejohnette of Bastrop, La., moved into 12th place in career receptions with his four catches against Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 7.
DEFENSE SHINES: The Indian defense sits atop the Sun Belt and is ranked No. 25 nationally in total defense. ASU?s defense yields just 285.0 yards per game. Despite not forcing a turnover for the first time this season last game, the Indian defense is also 32nd in the nation in turnovers gained, taking the ball away from its opponents 14 times through six game.
ASU IN TOP 5 NATIONALLY IN INTERCEPTIONS: Despite not intercepting a pass last game (first time this season ASU has not intercepted at least one pass in a game), just four teams are ranked ahead of Arkansas State?s defense in total interceptions. ASU has 11 interceptions on the season, while Western Michigan is No. 1 with 14. Cornerback Dominique Williams leads the team with three interceptions, and is 22nd nationally among interception leaders.
TOP 10 PASS DEFENSE: ASU?s pass defense is ranked 21st nationally. The Indians are giving up just 163 yards per game through the air, a figure that is the second best in the Sun Belt Conference despite having played two of the Sun Belt?s top four passing teams, FIU and ULM.
HOT STARTS: Two out of the last three weeks, the ASU defense forced a turnover on its opponent?s opening possession. Against Florida International three weeks ago, the turnover came on the first play from scrimmage. Against ULM two weeks ago, ASU linebacker Josh Williams intercepted a pass on the second play from scrimmage.
STINGY AT HOME: Arkansas State has allowed just one touchdown over its last four games at Indian Stadium, dating back to last season. ULM scored a rushing touchdown against ASU on Oct. 7 of this year, the only touchdown allowed by ASU over that span.
SPECIAL TEAMS THREAT: Defensive back Darren Toney became the seventh player in school history to surpass 1,000 kickoff return yards in a career earlier this season and is now ranked fifth all-time at ASU with 1,107
SPREADING THE BALL AROUND: A season-high eight different players caught a pass against SMU on Sept. 23 and 13 different ASU players have caught at least one pass this season. ASU has completed a pass to at least six different players in five of its six games this year.
AT THE TOP OF THE RANKINGS: While the season is still young, ASU is ranked among the top three teams in the Sun Belt Conference in 14 statistical categories. The Indians are No. 1 in seven categories, including total defense.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: Arkansas State is in its sixth year as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, joining the league for its inaugural 2001 season. After defeating Florida International in its Sun Belt opener Sept. 30, ASU is now a perfect 6-0 in Sun Belt openers with wins over Louisiana-Lafayette (2001), Louisiana-Monroe (2002-2004) and Florida International (2005-2006).
STANDOUT LINEBACKER MAKES RETURN: Linebacker Josh Williams is back after missing the entire 2005 season and recorded 31 tackles in his first six games, the most on the team. Against ULM Saturday, he notched his first pass interception of the season. As a freshman in 2004, Williams started all 11 games, led the team in tackles with 110, and was the top freshman tackler in the nation. He was also named first-team Freshman All-America by CollegeSportsReports.com and second-team Freshman All-America by the Sporting News and by Rivals.com. The 6-1, 255-pound junior from Beaumont, Texas, was the only freshman in the nation in 2004 to finish among the top 50 tacklers in the country.
WADE HONORED: ASU senior linebacker Devrett Wade was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 8 following his team-high 11-tackle performance in the Indians? 10-6 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at Indian Stadium.
ARNOLD NAMED SUN BELT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Redshirt freshman running back Reggie Arnold was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 4 after rushing for a game-high 140 yards and one touchdown to help lead ASU to a 14-6 victory over Army. In his first collegiate game, Arnold carried the ball 25 times for a 5.6 average and had six rushes that went for at least 10 yards. His longest run went for 22 yards, while his touchdown rush covered 17 yards.
JAMES NAMED SUN BELT DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior defensive lineman Jamarrow James was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 4 after recording a career-tying seven tackles, including three for a loss of 12 yards, in a 14-6 victory over Army. His seven tackles tied the second most on the team and his three tackles for a loss led all players. Out of his seven tackles, five were solo.
FOR STARTERS: Arkansas State won its season opener for the first time since 1995 with a 14-6 victory over Army. The game also marked the first time the Indians had opened the season at Indian Stadium since 1995 and the 11th time that ASU had ever opened its season at Indian Stadium since it opened in 1974. ASU improved to 9-2 in season opening games at Indian Stadium. ASU is now 43-43-6 all-time in season openers.
92nd SEASON UNDER WAY: Arkansas State kicked off its 92nd season of football with its game against Army. The Indians hold a 393-418-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and have played in seven bowl games. With seven more victories, ASU can become the fifth Sun Belt school with 400+ wins.
STRONG DEFENSE: The ASU defense held Army to just 164 yards of total offense, which is the Indians? fewest offensive yards allowed since holding Sam Houston State to 150 yards in 1986, in its season opener.
PRESEASON PICKS: Defending Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State has been picked to finish second in the 2006 Sun Belt Conference football race according to a preseason poll of the league's eight head coaches. The Indians received 50 points, just eight fewer than preseason favorite Louisiana-Lafayette, and picked up two first-place votes.
JENKINS & JOHNSON NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT: Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson and center Tanner Jenkins were named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Football Team, the league announced Monday at its 2006 Media Day.
A NEW LOOK: Arkansas State will play four games on brand new ProGreen turf in Indian Stadium during 2006.
HIGHLY DECORATED: Center Tanner Jenkins is looking to be one of the most decorated players ASU has had. He has been selected to the 2006 Dave Rimington Trophy Watch List, the Outland Trophy Watch List, and to the Rotary Lombardi Watch List. The Sporting News has tabbed him as a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference performer and NationalChamps.net has picked Jenkins to its 2006 preseason All-america team. Jenkins has also been chosen to the preseason All-America list by Street & Smith. He is also a selection to the CollegeFootballNews.com preseason All-SBC team.
SAFETY WORTH MORE THAN TWO POINTS: Safety Tyrell Johnson was named to The Sporting News 2006 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference football team and the publication?s Defensive Player of the Year.
AMONG THE BEST IN THE BELT: Eight members of ASU?s football team have been named to the CollegeFootballNews.com preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team and four are listed in the organization?s Top 30 players in the Sun Belt. LB Josh Williams and S Tyrell Johnson are ASU?s representatives on the first team defense. The second team includes WR Levi Dejohnette, C Tanner Jenkins, OL Matt Mandich, DL Jamarrow James, LB Devrett Wade and DB Khayyam Burns. Williams is rated the third-best player in the SBC followed by number four by Johnson. Burns is ranked 22nd and FB Oren O?Neal is 30th.
RETURN TO CHAMPIONSHIP FORM: ASU?s conference championship in 2005 was the first for the Indians since 1986 when ASU finished the season with a record of 12-2-1 and earned a trip to the Division I-AA national championship game?the Diamond Bowl. The last time ASU played in a Division I bowl game prior to 2005?s New Orleans Bowl was in 1970.
ROBERTS RECEIVES LEAGUE?S TOP COACHING HONOR: Head Coach Steve Roberts is the 2005 Sun Belt Conference ?Coach of the Year.?
TWO-SPORT STARS: Darren Toney and Evan Van Dolah also compete as members of ASU?s track and field team. Toney competed both indoors and outdoors with Van Dolah competing indoors only. Toney, had an indoor season best of 6.56 in the 55-meter dash while Van Dolah clocked 6.83. In the 60-meter dash, Toney ran 7.01 and then 22.70 in the 200. Van Dolah turned in his best of 8.60 in the 60-meter hurdles. Outdoors, Toney posted the fastest 100-meter time on the team with 10.85 and third in the 200 with 22.12. He also ran the anchor leg on the 4x100-meter relay which ran a best of 41.35 and the third leg on the 1:26.96 4x200-meter squad.
Looking Ahead to Ark State
Mean Green preparing for ASU without Dickey
MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
JONESBORO ? It?s business as usual at North Texas, even though everything about this week has been unusual.
The Mean Green have spent this week preparing for Arkansas State without coach Darrell Dickey, who suffered a heart attack last Thursday and had a stent placed in his heart during surgery the following day.
The long-time UNT coach, who is in his ninth year, has visited with the Mean Green throughout the week for brief periods and continues to recover at his home.
UNT assistant coach Kenny Evans has taken over the head coaching responsibilities. Evans said while these are trying times for him and the team emotionally, all was going smoothly.
?Coach Dickey has done such a great job of organizing things that I?m just following a plan that he has already laid out,? Evans added. ?I?m just following his plan and keeping in constant contact with him so if a situation arises that we haven?t discussed that we will be on the same page.?
Arkansas State hosts North Texas Saturday with UNT holding an 8-7 lead in the overall series. ASU defeated North Texas last year 31-24 to end a 5-game losing streak to the Mean Green.
Dickey met briefly with his team Sunday night to tell them of his condition. It is unclear when he will be allowed to return to coaching and whether he will be with the team this weekend.
Dickey has an appointment with his doctor this morning, and hopes he is allowed to rejoin the team, although it is not likely.
UNT senior fullback James Mitchell said the team felt much better about the situation after listening and talking to their head coach.
?We?re doing good,? Mitchell said. ?It all came as a surprise to us when we came in Sunday night and he told us. Everybody was a little shocked at first. He has been through a lot, but we know he is going to be all right and that he is going to make a full recovery.?
Practices have gone on without a problem this week, according to both Evans and Mitchell.
The Mean Green is trying to find some consistency after a 2-4 start, and trying to build on a 25-22 victory over Florida International that took an NCAA record seven overtimes. North Texas has the NCAA?s worst-ranked offense in Division I-A, averaging 192.7 yards a game.
Evans said while the final decision-making and strategy will fall on his shoulders this weekend, Dickey has given the UNT staff a plan.
?He has told me what he wants done,? Evans said ?Our offensive and defensive coordinators have really stepped up and made it very easy for me. We are talking about things that we want to try to do and have gotten input from him also.?
Evans also indicated the Mean Green would have a couple of new looks this week, although they won?t be throwing out the playbook from the first six games.
UNT has operated from an I-formation this season, using two tight ends, two running backs and one wide receiver most of the time.
?Just as in every game there are things that we do a little bit different every week,? Evans said. ?We are not changing our offense or changing our defense. We are just planning like it?s a normal game and trying to keep it as consistent as possible.?
Mitchell said the week of practice has been consistent and, while Coach Dickey is in the back of their minds, the team has been able to keep its attention on ASU.
?Even with all that is going on, everybody knows that we have to remain focused on Arkansas State,? Mitchell said. ?It helps that Coach Dickey has come by practice every day for a little bit. Everybody is doing the same stuff in practice and Coach Evans is doing a good job, but I would say that our minds are right.?
There is the outside possibility that Dickey could rejoin the team after visiting with his doctor this morning.
Dickey is 41-59 since taking the head coaching job at UNT in 1998. He led the Mean Green to four straight Sun Belt Conference titles before Arkansas State ended the run last fall.
Evans said it?s not been an easy week for him, personally, not having his friend and co-worker around.
?It has been tough,? Evans said. ?First and foremost, I?m concerned about him because he is a friend. The best thing I can do for him is to go do what he has asked me to do and that is to follow his plan.?
As for motivation, Evans doesn?t believe the absence of Dickey can help in any way.
?I don?t think it will help as a motivating factor,? Evans said. ?I think it hurts when he is away. I think it makes things tougher because it?s just another distraction.?
Looking Ahead to Ark State
Indians whip Mean Green on Homecoming
BY MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
JONESBORO ? Arkansas State didn?t need a Hail Mary at the end. The Indians didn?t need a late scoring drive either.
This time, ASU had things well in hand long before time expired.
Arkansas State scored on three straight possessions and shut down North Texas in the second half to ease past the Mean Green for a 29-10 victory in front of a crowd of 19,141 on Homecoming and remain atop the Sun Belt Conference Saturday night at Indian Stadium.
The victory was the fourth straight for ASU (5-2 overall, 3-0 Sun Belt) this season and eighth in a row at Indian Stadium. After back-to-back victories that needed late-game heroics, the Indians scored three times and held UNT (2-5, 1-2) scoreless in the second half for its first breather since beating Florida International 31-7.
ASU coach Steve Roberts downplayed the 19-point victory, which was the Indians? biggest win over the Mean Green since the 2000 season.
?This is a big win for us and hopefully we can build on that,? Roberts said. ?Everybody is talking about the win streak and all that type of stuff, which is great, but win streaks don?t mean anything unless you continue them. That?s our job as a football team. I am proud of our players. They are finding a way to win. They are not always pretty, not always easy.?
For the fourth straight week, Arkansas State rolled up a season high with the football as the Indians finished with 466 yards total offense, including 279 yards on the ground.
ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard continued to progress after becoming the Indians? starter last week, finishing with 264 yards total offense. He was 11-of-19 passing for 187 yards and a touchdown while running 12 times for 77 yards.
Leonard said he continues to gain confidence as the starter but it?s the Indians? entire offense that is becoming more consistent and more productive, not just his play.
?I think the biggest thing is how comfortable our offense is getting with each other,? Leonard said. ?We?re just more comfortable with each of our abilities, knowing that we can come out there and dominate the line of scrimmage.?
ASU redshirt freshman tailback Reggie Arnold, who came into the game as the Sun Belt?s leading rusher, returned to form with more than 100 yards in a game for the third time this season. Arnold, limited by a sprained ankle the last two weeks, finished with 121 yards on 25 carries and three 1-yard touchdown runs.
Arnold scored all three of his TDs in the second half as Arkansas State pulled away from North Texas after playing to a 10-10 tie at the half.
Roberts credited ASU?s offensive line for the victory and Arnold?s big game. The Indians? 279 yards on the ground was a season-high as ASU averaged 5.5 yards a carry.
?Our offensive line did a heck of a job,? Roberts said. ?We churned out 477 yards (actually 466), and 279 yards rushing. That?s just absolutely huge and that?s just a big tribute to all of those offensive linemen up there. We played 10 offensive linemen during the course of the game and all of them did an outstanding job.?
The Indians did not turn the ball over for the first time all year, while North Texas? two turnovers led to two Arkansas State scores.
The Mean Green fumbled a punt at their own 8 to set up Josh Arauco?s 19-yard field goal late in the first half and ASU?s Khayyam Burn intercepted UNT quarterback Daniel Meager to set up one of Arnold?s three touchdown runs in the second half.
?We made some mistakes with a couple turnovers and a couple penalties that really hurt us on a couple drives as we were trying to come back,? said UNT assistant Kenny Evans, who was coaching in place of head coach Darrell Dickey. ?Arkansas State played mistake-free football and we did not. If you are going to win games in this league, you can?t make more mistakes than your opponent.?
Dickey suffered a heart attack 10 days ago and was unable to coach his team Saturday night.
Arnold gave ASU a 16-10 lead on the Indians? first possession of the second half with the first of his three touchdown runs. The drive included four passes by Leonard, the biggest a 47-yard completion to Levi Dejohnette to the UNT 7.
Arnold plunged in from the 1 with 8:14 to go in the third quarter but Arauco missed the point-after kick.
Burns? interception set up Arnold?s second TD of the game as Burns returned the football 30 yards to the UNT 36. From there, ASU moved 64 yards on 10 plays with Arnold carrying five times, including his scoring run behind the left side of the line.
Arauco?s PAT made it 23-10 with 1:04 to play in the third quarter.
After holding UNT again, the Indians scored on their third straight possession to put the game away. The final scoring drive covered 59 yards and took 11 plays as senior fullback Oren O?Neal?s 12-yard run to the 1 set up Arnold?s third TD of the night.
North Texas led 3-0 by scoring on its first possession of the game as placekicker Denis Hopovac booted a 42-yard field goal with 2:15 to go in the first quarter. But ASU responded with a 72-yard drive for a score as Leonard completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Jones over the middle on a nice post pattern.
UNT took a 10-7 lead with 7:05 to play in the first half as Meager completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to David Collins. But a fumbled punt by UNT?s Zach Muzzy gave ASU the ball at the Mean Green 8 and Arauco tied the score on a 19-yard field goal with 1:55 to play in the half.
After moving the ball up and down the field in the first half, North Texas had a hard time after intermission.
The Mean Green had 167 yards offense at halftime, but managed just 96 the rest of the night to finish with 263.
?We just came out ready to play in the second half,? ASU linebacker Josh Williams said. ?We knew it was our turn to ?D? up. We made a few adjustments in the locker room and we just came out ready to play, ready to get after it and finish the game.?
Arkansas State?s perfect record three games into the Sun Belt schedule is its best start ever in conference play. The Indians shoot for their third straight road victory and fifth in a row overall next Saturday when they visit Florida Atlantic.
Looking Ahead to Ark State
SUN BELT FOOTBALL : Arnold?s three TDs keep Indians rolling
BY TODD TRAUB
JONESBORO ? Reggie Arnold?s ankle looked healthy Saturday night and so did Arkansas State.
Arnold rushed for 121 yards and three second-half touchdowns as the Indians beat orth Texas 29-10 before a homecoming crowd of 19,141 at Indian Stadium. The big night came a week after Arnold left the game at Memphis in the first half when he aggravated an ankle injury.
But Arnold, a redshirt freshman running back who entered the night as the Sun Belt Conference?s leading rusher, was good to go for four quarters Saturday as he helped Arkansas State (5-2 ) win its eighth consecutive home game and, most important, improve to 3-0 in the Sun Belt.
?It?s getting a lot better,? Arnold said of his ankle. ?I?ve just got to go out there and not worry about it. If you go out there and worry about it, that?s when you get hurt. So just go out there and run and see what happens.?
What happened was that Arnold was the equal of North Texas running back Jamario Thomas, who was offensive player, overall player and freshman of the year in the Sun Belt two seasons ago when he led the nation in rushing. Thomas, who hadn?t played against Arkansas State because of injuries, gained 119 yards Saturday.
?Jamario Thomas, what a heck of a running back,? Indians Coach Steve Roberts said. ?He made us miss several times during the night. He?s very powerful and very quick.?
But Thomas only gained 38 of his yards in the second half as the Indians? defense shut out the Mean Green in the final two quarters. Safety Khayyam Burns intercepted Daniel Meager, leading to one of Arnold?s three 1-yard touchdown runs, and Arkansas State also stopped the Mean Green after it reached the 1 when linebacker Koby McKinnon got to Meager on fourth down for the team?s second sack with 5:21 left.
?The defense stepped up huge,? Roberts said. ?Especially there late in the ballgame. [North Texas] had an opportunity to win that football game. We came up with a big play there on fourth down, and then our offense went out and ran the clock out.?
Arnold began the night with a Sun Belt best average of 87 yards a game and is one of the bright new faces on an Indians team that won the Sun Belt and reached the New Orleans Bowl last year.
The Indians are also getting results from redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Leonard, who was 11 of 19 for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. It was Leonard?s third start and second complete game after he had rotated with redshirt sophomore Travis Hewitt, and after throwing four interceptions in his previous two games, Leonard was interception-free Saturday.
?We?ve made some bad mistakes in the past that put our team in some bad spots,? Leonard said. ?Especially the last two weeks late in the ballgame, but luckily we came out and won. I just want to take better care of the ball, instead of just throwing one up for grabs.?
Leonard gained a career-high 77 rushing yards to help the Indians to a season-high 466 total yards, and his 264 total yards was another career high.
?I think the biggest thing is just how comfortable our offense is getting with each other,? Leonard said. ?When we come out and dominate the line of scrimmage, we don?t feel like there?s a defense that can stop us.?
Not all of the Indians? skill players are as youthful as Leonard and Arnold, redshirt freshman tailback Cedric Wilkerson or true freshman wideout/return man Brandon Thompkins. The team welcomed back sixth-year senior fullback Oren O?Neal, who missed four-plus games with a knee injury.
?I?m finally getting into the lineup and get to hit somebody,? O?Neal said. ?My position is the fullback, I love to hit people, and I finally got the chance to do that. It just makes you feel good.?
The Indians are streaking and have key players returning, but they have four Sun Belt games left, three on the road, plus a nonconference game at No. 8 Auburn.
?We need to make sure that we build on the winning and not get to the point where we?re satisfied,? Roberts said.
?We all want that conference championship,? Arnold said.
The Indians broke a 10-10 tie on a 1-yard run by Arnold with 8:14 left in the third quarter. After Burns? interception, Arnold turned in another 1-yard scoring run with 1:04 left in the quarter and he made it 29-10 on another 1-yarder with 9:44 left in the game.
North Texas drove to the Arkansas State 15 on its first drive of the game but settled for Denis Hopovac?s 42-yard field goal with 2:15 left in the first quarter. Leonard capped a six-play, 72-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Jones to make it 7-3 Arkansas State with 14:01 left in the half.
North Texas went back in front on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Meager to tight end David Collins with 7:05 left.
The Indians? Desmond Chatman recovered a fumbled punt by North Texas? Zach Muzzy at the Mean Green 8 with 4:03 to go, and Josh Arauco kicked a 19-yard field goal three plays later for the 10-10 halftime score.
The Indians have won four consecutive overall, and five consecutive Sun Belt games. The last time they won four consecutive games in any league was when they won 10 consecutive Southland Conference games under Larry Lacewell in 1985-1986.
The last time they started 5-2 was in 1987 and they have won four consecutive for the first time since 1995, when they finished 6-5 under John Bobo.
?Everybody is talking about the win streak and all that type stuff which is great but win streaks don?t mean anything unless you continue,? Roberts said.
Sun Belt Conference MIDDLE TENNESSEE 35, LOUISIANA-MONROE 21
MONROE, La. ? Middle Tennessee overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to beat Louisiana-Monroe. Middle Tennessee quarterback Clint Marks paced the offense with 234 yards and two touchdowns, completing 19 of 24 attempts on the night. The Blue Raiders (4-3, 3-0 Sun Belt) outgained Louisiana-Monroe 449-286 in total yards. Middle Tennessee?s freshman receiver, Desmond Gee, had a career-high 109 yards on six receptions and scored his first career touchdown. Calvin Dawson led the offense for Louisiana-Monroe (1-6, 0-4 ), carrying the ball 12 times for 72 yards and 1 touchdown. Warhawks quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster completed 15 of 27 passes for 184 yards and 1 touchdown.