News Articles - ASU
News Articles - ASU
SBC football notes
By Kevin Turbeville
Sun staff writer
JONESBORO ? Four of the eight Sun Belt Conference football teams have yet to lose a league game going into the final weekend of October.
At least one will still be unbeaten in conference play when the calendar turns to November.
Middle Tennessee (4-3, 3-0 SBC) visits Louisiana-Lafayette (4-2, 1-0) on Saturday. MTSU will be aiming for its third Sun Belt road victory while UL Lafayette is riding a 4-game winning streak.
Arkansas State (5-2, 3-0) will make its first trip to Florida Atlantic (2-5, 1-1) on Saturday while Troy (2-4, 1-0) stays home to take on North Texas (2-5, 1-2).
The MTSU-UL Lafayette game features teams that rank highly in Sun Belt rushing statistics. In their first year under coach Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders are No. 2 among Sun Belt teams in rushing defense and No. 3 in rushing offense.
But the Ragin? Cajuns, the preseason Sun Belt favorites, lead the league in both rushing offense (198.7 yards per game) and rushing defense (105.8 per game).
?They?ve got a great team and I think they deserve all the recognition, all the accolades they?re receiving right now,? Stockstill said. ?Running the ball, they?re as good as anybody we?ve played running the football.?
MTSU?s defensive speed impresses UL Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle.
?Obviously the key is being able to run and I?ll tell you what, they?re only giving up 108 yards on the ground,? Bustle said. ?Hopefully you can keep them off balance a little bit, but we do run the ball quite a bit and we?re going to have to play better than we did last week to move the ball against that defense because those guys do close it up quickly.?
Bustle?s Cajuns beat FAU 6-0 last week despite rushing for only 144 yards. UL Lafayette still became the fourth Sun Belt team to pick up a conference victory on the road this season.
Troy?s conference victory came at home against Louisiana-Monroe. The Trojans will play four of their first five conference games at home.
Two Sun Belt teams will travel to take on Southeastern Conference opponents this week. ULM will travel to Little Rock to play Arkansas while Florida International will visit Alabama.
Home away from home
ULM will be the home team Saturday night in War Memorial Stadium as part of a 5-game deal with the 13th-ranked Razorbacks. The attendance will count toward ULM?s home average.
?I think it?s great for our program and we appreciate Arkansas having us on their schedule,? ULM coach Charlie Weatherbie said. ?Being able to come to Little Rock and meet them halfway, so to speak, and for us to count it as a home game, that?s a great opportunity for us.
?I think that was ingenious by our former athletic director as well as Arkansas to come up with that kind of plan.?
Weatherbie spent two seasons as an assistant at Arkansas. ULM assistant coaches Kim Dameron, Kirk Botkin and Ron Dickerson Jr. all played for the Razorbacks.
Time to play again
FIU?s game at Alabama will be its first since a brawl-marred Oct. 14 game against Miami. Two Golden Panthers were kicked off the team as a result of the fight while 16 others were suspended indefinitely from the squad. FIU coach Don Strock said several younger players will be given a chance to play.
?We have played a lot of these young men in games, but not to the extent they?ll be playing this week,? Strock said. ?I think they?re all looking forward to playing in the football game. I know the task ahead of us is huge, but this is part of the growing process for our younger players.?
Around the Sun Belt
UNT coach Darrell Dickey should be more involved with his team?s preparations this week, assistant coach Kenny Evans said. Dickey missed Saturday?s game at ASU while recovering from a heart attack. … UL Lafayette?s Drew Edmiston was named SBC Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking two 44-yard field goals for the only points against FAU. … MTSU quarterback Clint Marks has made 28 consecutive starts.
Copyright 2006 Jonesboro Sun
News Articles - ASU
Owls learn from advanced course
By Kevin Turbeville
Sun staff writer
JONESBORO ? Coach Howard Schnellenberger referred to Florida Atlantic?s first four games as ?an exercise in advanced football? during one of the Sun Belt Conference?s teleconferences.
Judging by their last three games, the Owls learned some lessons from their losses to Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina.
FAU (2-5, 1-1 SBC) might have been one pass completion from taking a 3-game winning streak into Saturday?s home game against Arkansas State. The Owls opened Sun Belt play by beating Louisiana-Monroe 21-19 on the road before ripping Division I-AA Southern Utah 32-7 in their home opener.
Sun Belt favorite Louisiana-Lafayette was unable to get its ground game going last week at FAU, but the Ragin? Cajuns prevailed 6-0 after batting away a last-play pass in the end zone.
Schnellenberger has said his players believed their rugged early schedule was to their benefit, adding that he has always believed in playing better teams in order to improve.
?We never went into a funk over losing to those four great teams we played,? Schnellenberger said before the UL Lafayette game. ?We recognized going in that the chance of beating one of them was slight. That was secondary.?
The Owls have shown they can compete with Sun Belt teams, especially on defense.
UL Lafayette averages 198.7 rushing yards, but the Cajuns managed only 144 against the Owls. Tyrell Fenroy?s streak of three consecutive 100-yard games ended as he only gained 91 against FAU.
?I give the credit to them,? UL Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said. ?They have good players on defense and they did a lot of twisting and stunting, that type of thing. … They did a great job of disrupting our blocking schemes some, and we just didn?t overcome it quite as well as we should have.?
Linebacker Frantz Joseph, a sophomore transfer from Boston College, led FAU with 14 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Cergile Sincere had 11 tackles and sophomore defensive tackle Jervonte Jackson, a preseason All-Sun Belt selection, had seven stops.
While the Owls limited the Cajuns to 228 total yards, they had only 237 themselves while being shut out for the second time this season.
Two players, center Nick Paris and guard Brandon Jackson, were missing from FAU?s offensive line last week. Paris may be able to return from his ankle injury for the ASU game, Schnellenberger said, but Jackson will not play this week.
?Hopefully we can reinvent our offense. Last week was a difficult time for us,? Schnellenberger said. ?We had two players who were out of our offensive line.
?We had to shuffle the players around that we had to accommodate our needs, and we didn?t get very good cohesiveness out of it. If we don?t get that straightened out, we?ll have a long, hard night.?
FAU has played two quarterbacks, junior Sean Clayton and redshirt freshman Rusty Smith. Smith started the opener at Clemson, but Clayton has started the last six games and is expected to start against ASU on Saturday.
Smith relieved Clayton early in the third quarter of the UL Lafayette game, completing 10 of 19 passes for 88 yards. Clayton was 8 of 15 for 62 yards.
?We think we have two developing quarterbacks who in time will be what we need here to solidify our program,? Schnellenberger said.
Clayton has completed 51.6 percent of his passes for 751 yards while Smith has connected on 50.6 percent for 471 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Frantz Simeon has caught 19 passes for 264 yards.
Sophomore halfback Charles Pierre is the leading rusher with 366 yards on 99 attempts.
ASU coach Steve Roberts said FAU has impressive athletes on offense.
?Their running back can make people miss. He has great speed and he?s very elusive in the open field,? Roberts said. ?They have wide receivers who are capable of making a lot of plays and I know they play a couple of quarterbacks.
?They?re both big, strong-arm quarterbacks and the more experience they get, the better they?re going to be. Offensive line-wise, I know they were playing without a couple of starters, so that?s not a good gauge.?
Roberts learned about FAU?s defensive capabilities last season, when ASU needed overtime to scratch out a 3-0 victory over the Owls at Indian Stadium.
?We knew going in they were very, very stout defensively, and they still are,? Roberts said. ?They do some great things defensively.?
News Articles - ASU
Thursday, October 26, 2006
ASU may have new holder for kicks
BY MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
JONESBORO ? Arkansas State is tinkering with its field goal unit.
After a pair of missed point-after kicks last week against North Texas, ASU is looking at a switch at the holder?s position when the Indians visit Florida Atlantic this weekend.
Sophomore Travis Hewitt has been Arkansas State?s holder on extra points and field goals so far this season, but ASU coach Steve Roberts said the Indians will likely use sophomore Brett Shrable this week against the Owls.
?We will probably make a change this week with Brett Shrable being our holder,? Roberts said Wednesday. ?He has done a great job in practice and he will get an opportunity if everything goes well the rest of the week.?
Shrable, who is from Hoxie, has been the team?s punter this season after playing linebacker last year.
He split time with Hewitt during Wednesday afternoon?s workout in a light rain preparing for what could be his first game action as the holder.
Roberts said the problems the Indians encountered in their kicking game against North Texas were the reason behind the move.
?We did some things that were uncharacteristic of us,? said Roberts, who handles special teams himself. ?We are having trouble in our extra-point game. We seem to do better on field goals than we have on our extra points and that?s disturbing. Hopefully we can get that worked out.?
ASU placekicker Josh Arauco is 12-of-15 on PATs this season while making 6-of-9 field goals. He had one PAT blocked by North Texas while another attempt missed low.
But Arauco said he was as much to blame for ASU?s kicking problems as anyone, not just the holder. Even with the switch, Arauco doesn?t feel like the field goal unit is where it needs to be.
?We?re still pretty weak as far as the snap, the hold and the kick go as a unit,? Arauco said. ?It?s not really one individual?s fault. The best way to put it is it?s out of whack. I?m not going to sit here and blame anybody. I?m as much to blame as the snapper and the holder are if we miss a kick.?
Shrable said he had never held before on any level, but believes he and Arauco can be more consistent over time.
At Hoxie, Shrable was the team?s placekicker. At ASU, Shrable has held for Arauco throughout practices all fall but just not in a game.
While he has an understanding of what the position requires, Shrable feels the switch will benefit the Indians in the long run even if he doesn?t have any experience.
?Arauco is probably more used to me holding in practice just because we?ve worked together so long,? Shrable said. ?Like today, I probably held 40 balls for him in practice. It ought to help. Our timing is still lacking, but we will get better.?
With sophomore Nick Emfinger as the snapper and Hewitt as the holder, Arauco has made field goals from 19 to 33 yards this season. But, he?s had a 33-yard attempt against Army blocked and missed kicks of 37 and 41 yards against Florida International.
After the two missed PATs against North Texas, Roberts said he needed to look into making a switch.
ASU led 16-10 when Arauco missed the first PAT, then had another blocked after the Indians? final score of the night.
?As everybody knows, those are extremely important points,? Roberts said. ?They change the entire outlook of the game and the strategy of the game, what you do in the fourth quarter and that type of stuff. We have got to get that taken care of.?
Hewitt will be the back-up holder and continue as the back-up quarterback.
Arauco said the extra time he spends during practice with Shrable holding should help the unit in becoming more consistent.
?We?ll be able to practice a lot more now that I know he is my holder,? Arauco said. ?I?ll be able to come down here and have him hold and that should help me with my timing. I?m just hoping for the best.?
News Articles - ASU
Thompkins wants to show Owls what they're missing
BY MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
JONESBORO ? Arkansas State?s Brandon Thompkins has a bone to pick this weekend.
The South Florida native, who grew up less than a half hour from the Florida Atlantic campus, said he received a startling phone call from an FAU coach late during the recruiting period last year.
The Owls, who spent months keeping in contact with Thompkins, just up and changed their mind one day.
It wasn?t that Florida Atlantic decided to quit recruiting Thompkins that bothered him, though. It was how he was told that still doesn?t sit right with the Palm Beach Lakes (Fla.) High School product.
?FAU recruited me and they recruited me heavy at the school every week,? Thompkins recalled. ?But then they called me back one day and told me they found somebody better. They actually said he was better than me. That kind of hurt.?
Thompkins, a 5-foot-10 freshman receiver, had been recruited by several schools. Among those interested were FAU, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Akron, Bowling Green and Arkansas State.
But Thompkins? SAT score was flagged by the NCAA, and he wasn?t ruled eligible until after the signing period last February.
By the time Thompkins took the SAT and passed for a second time, many schools didn?t have a scholarship left to offer.
It came down to Arkansas State and UL Lafayette.
Thompkins said he chose ASU because he felt the coaches were more up front with him about the program and what his part would be.
?Arkansas State came to me after signing day and stuck with me and told me the truth about everything they ever said to me,? Thompkins said. ?I chose this school because of that, because they were truthful with me.?
So Thompkins ended up at Arkansas State as a late signee, joining the Indians on the first day of practice in August.
As the Indians went through preseason practices leading up to the season-opener against Army, it became more and more evident that Thompkins was standing out among the freshman class.
ASU coach Steve Roberts said he prefers to redshirt all incoming freshmen, but certain situations don?t always allow for that. The criteria Roberts uses for not redshirting a freshman typically involve three areas, including talent, need and depth or injury.
In Thompkins? case, the speedy wide receiver ? who also played cornerback and some quarterback in high school ? met all three requirements.
?For a freshman, he has exceeded our expectations,? Roberts said. ?He is very intent on improving every day. He is a mature young man and he is very coachable. His character and athletic ability really stand out.?
Of all Arkansas State?s signees, Thompkins is the only freshman position player not to have redshirted. Specialist Brian Sheffield, who handles kickoffs, is the only other freshman from the 2006 recruiting class not to have redshirted.
And so far, Thompkins has proven to be plenty valuable despite his youth and inexperience.
Thompkins has made five catches for 69 yards, including a long of 33 against Louisiana-Monroe. His biggest play of the season, though, came on the ground when he took an end around 16 yards for a touchdown against Memphis.
ASU receivers coach Mike McCarty said Thompkins has one gift that makes him stand apart from others.
?His speed is such that you can?t teach that,? McCarty said. ?He is certainly one of the quickest guys on our team. He certainly might be the fastest guy. He certainly has the kind of speed we need to be on the field to be very effective.?
As Arkansas State?s primary kickoff return man, Thompkins has used his speed and athletic moves to lead the team this season, averaging 25.4 yards on nine returns.
Thompkins ranks 28th in the nation with his kick return average and isn?t far from the top 10. His biggest game came against Memphis, when he returned five kicks for 131 yards, including returns of 30 and 40 yards.
The following week North Texas purposely kicked away from Thompkins, opting to kick it to teammate Darren Toney.
?I?d say that?s a compliment,? Roberts said.
Thompkins admitted his feet might never have been on the field for Arkansas State were it not for several scenarios that ended up working in ASU?s favor.
He figured Florida Atlantic would be his choice, then heavily considered Louisiana-Lafayette before deciding to leave home and move more than 1,000 miles away.
Even once he was on campus, Thompkins was unsure about his decision.
?The first couple of weeks I was real homesick,? said Thompkins, who grew up in the shadows of Miami. ?I was calling home every day and I missed that home cooking. But after a while I got over it and everything was OK.?
Thompkins came to ASU with a 40-yard dash time listed at 4.48 seconds. He said he?s been clocked at 4.38 since. And while his pace on the field has picked up, Thompkins said he?s gotten used to the slower pace of life that his new home has to offer.
?It?s way different here,? Thompkins said. ?Everything here is slowed down. Everything in Florida is fast-paced. There?s not that much to do here but it?s nice to have a slower pace. You don?t have that much to worry about. In Miami, you had to worry about trying to stay safe all the time. It?s a better living here.?
Playing football at ASU has turned out pretty well, too.
Thompkins will have the opportunity to show Florida Atlantic what the school missed on Saturday when Arkansas State faces the Owls.
?I?m going to try to show them what I?ve been working on since I?ve been here,? Thompkins said. ?I felt like I made the right choice. I like the atmosphere here. The one thing about Arkansas State, they always tell you the truth. They never second-hand you, or do something behind your back.?
News Articles - ASU
Issue date: 10/26/06 Section: Sports
Media Credit: Keith Bratton
ASU redshirt freshman running back Reggie Arnold leads the Sun Belt Conference in rushing with 643 yards this season, including four touchdowns.
Through seven games, Reggie Arnold has proven to be one of the best freshman running backs in the nation.
Although fellow redshirt freshman Cedric Wilkerson and sophomore Chris James have ran the ball effectively for ASU this season, it is Arnold who has made the biggest impact. He is currently leading the Sun Belt Conference in rushing with 643 yards and has averaged 91.9 yards per game. Nationally, Arnold is ranked 26th in rushing.
"Reggie has run the football very tough and does a lot of things very well without the ball in his hands," ASU Head Coach Steve Roberts said.
Listed at 5-9 and 217 pounds, Arnold is a bruising back that has been slowed by a sprained right ankle in recent weeks. Against North Texas last Saturday, however, Arnold scored three second-half touchdowns to propel ASU to a 29-10 victory. He has scored four touchdowns in seven games. With the return of senior fullback Oren O'Neal and the solid offensive line in front of him, Arnold could become the third player to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2002 for ASU. Danny Smith and Antonio Warren are the other two players.
Arnold graduated from McClellan High School at Little Rock in 2005. At McClellan, Arnold rushed for 2,603 yards and scored 31 touchdowns in two seasons. In the spring of his junior year, he would record the fastest 40-yard dash time among all the players at a combine at Little Rock. Running backs coach David Gunn was familiar with Arnold as he had coached at McClellan before joining Roberts' staff at ASU.
"He's an outstanding young man with solid character," Gunn said. "He's a very good football player to go along with that. We knew over the course of time that he's going to be able to make a major contribution to Arkansas State football."
Last fall, Arnold watched the Indians win the SBC championship and earn a spot in the New Orleans Bowl. Warren and Shermar Bracey had been the starters in the backfield for the previous two seasons. But coming into the 2006 season, Arnold was expected to be one of a solid stable of backs to contribute.
"We have some very good young backs," Gunn said. "It's one of those things when you lose an (Antonio) Warren and a (Shermar) Bracey, you always want to recruit to make sure that the next guy coming along will do just as well. We feel like we have that in Reggie, Cedric, and Chris."
Arnold had also been recruited by Arkansas and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but he knew that Jonesboro was the right place for him.
"It was a good school for educational purposes," Arnold said. "I knew this program was on the rise. Coach Roberts came here and did some good things. They had the teams that they needed, but they had been a couple of plays away from having a big season, from Ole Miss to Memphis. So I wanted to come here, try to help these guys with my class that came in and the players they had coming in. We knew we were going to be able to do some big things."
Before coming to ASU, Arnold's father, Reggie, Sr., gave him advice on what the Division I-A football experience would be like. Reggie, Sr. was a wide receiver at Purdue from 1974-1977. His father would tell him to "work hard, be humble, and to let your actions speak for you."
ASU will travel to Boca Raton, Fla. Saturday to take on Florida Atlantic. While the Indians are 3-0 in the SBC, Arnold knows that there's more work ahead.
"If everything goes the way it does and we keep getting better, with better recruiting classes and with our class that we have here, hopefully we'll have multiple Sun Belt Conference championships."
News Articles - ASU
BY MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ? Arkansas State begins a long, grinding road to the end of the season today.
Starting with their second visit to the Sunshine State this season, the Indians finish with four of their final five games on the road, including trips to Florida Atlantic, Auburn, Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Indians will travel more than 5,000 miles during the next five weeks to determine their fate in the Sun Belt Conference.
ASU coach Steve Roberts said this afternoon?s game at Florida Atlantic is just the beginning of a very tough stretch for his team.
Arkansas State and FAU kick off at 3 p.m. CDT at Lockhart Stadium.
?There is no mistaking it, we are in the most difficult stretch of our season right now,? Roberts said. ?We have four of our last five games on the road against the four highest-ranked opponents in the Sun Belt Conference that we will play and Auburn. It will be very, very difficult from here on out.?
Arkansas State (5-2 overall, 3-0 Sun Belt) enters its second-ever matchup with Florida Atlantic as a team with several streaks going.
The Indians have won four straight games, including two on the road. They?ve also won their last five Sun Belt Conference games, including three on the road, dating to last year?s win at home against Troy.
But Roberts said none of the streaks matter if the Indians don?t take care of business today.
ASU defeated North Texas convincingly last Saturday, 29-10, to remain tied with Middle Tennessee atop the Sun Belt standings.
?We are going in with some momentum,? Roberts said. ?We?ve got some streaks that are going and we are excited about. But as our football team understands, those streaks don?t mean anything unless you continue them. We do not want to be a football team that was 5-2 and then … we want to be a football team that is remembered for what we did the entire season.?
Last year Arkansas State defeated Florida Atlantic 3-0 in overtime. The Indians won it on Eric Neihouse?s 21-yard field goal after FAU turned the ball over on its possession to start the extra period.
ASU dominated statistically, rolling up 393 yards while holding the Owls to just 168. But the Indians turned the ball over four times inside FAU?s 35-yard line to kill scoring opportunities.
The second meeting between the two schools could be just as close, according to Roberts.
?It?s a very dangerous game, there is no doubt,? Roberts said. ?All of the Sun Belt game are dangerous games because there is so much parity in our league and each team has enough players to get hot and beat you. We have proven that when we weren?t projected to win … and they are the same way.?
Florida Atlantic (2-5, 1-1) began the season with four straight losses by a combined score of 192-20. But the Owls faced one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation to open the season, losing at Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and South Carolina.
Since the 0-4 start, though, FAU has won two of its last three games, including a 21-19 victory at Louisiana-Monroe. Last week, the Owls lost to preseason Sun Belt favorite Louisiana-Lafayette 6-0, but had a chance to win on the game?s final play.
Roberts said Florida Atlantic, which is coached by Howard Schnellenberger, is a team that could have just as easily beaten the Ragin? Cajuns and be 2-0 in Sun Belt play if not for a great defensive play to end that game.
?Florida Atlantic is a much better football team than their record indicates, especially defensively,? Roberts added. ?They have played very well defensively in the last three weeks. … They are very fast, very physical on defense. They are led by their linebacking corps. They are all very active football players. They are big and can run up front.?
The Owls have shown a couple of different looks defensively this season, making them difficult to prepare for.
FAU used primarily a 4-3 defensive scheme before facing Arkansas State last season, but switched to a 5-man front for its game at ASU. The Owls have incorporated both 4-man and 5-man fronts in games this year.
They are led by linebackers Cergile Sincere and Frantz Joseph, a Boston College transfer who was the Sun Belt?s Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 14 tackles against UL Lafayette. Sincere has 49 total tackles, while Joseph has 36 and sophomore strong safety Kris Bartels has 43.
Offensively, Florida Atlantic is similar to ASU, according to Roberts.
?It?s not very complicated,? Roberts said of FAU?s offense. ?They do some very good stuff. They are a whole lot like us in the run game. They are mostly a Pro-I formation type of team. They break it just like us and go 4-wide and 5-wide and that type of stuff.?
FAU has used two quarterbacks this season, settling on junior Sean Clayton as the starter the last six games but using redshirt freshman Rusty Smith nearly as much. Clayton and Smith have combined to complete 107 of 207 passes for 1,221 yards and five touchdowns.
The Owls have rushed for just 723 yards this year, an average barely more than 100 yards a game with sophomore halfback Charles Pierre carrying a team-high 99 times for 366 yards.
Roberts said Florida Atlantic does most of its damage with a deceptive passing game.
?The thing that scares me the most is they do an outstanding job running the screens,? Roberts said. ?They have over 1,100 yards passing and a ton of that passing yardage has come off screens.?
Arkansas State has the Sun Belt?s best offense statistically, averaging 338.9 yards a game.
ASU tailback Reggie Arnold leads the SBC in rushing despite playing with a sprained ankle the past three games. The Indians were bolstered last week by the return of senior fullback Oren O?Neal, whom Roberts said continues to improve after injuring his right knee against Oklahoma State.
Roberts hopes the Indians continue to establish a dominant rushing attack today, but believes quarterback Corey Leonard will have to complete some passes first in order to do that ? just like he did against North Texas. Leonard passed for 187 yards and rushed for 77 in the win over UNT.
?We?ve got to be able to throw the football to take some of the pressure off of our running game,? Roberts said. ?I thought last week we had great balance, a great mix of run to pass and we were able to take advantage of some of the things they were trying to do to stop the run.?
ASU-FAU FOOTBALL |
Where: Lockhart Stadium (20,450), Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Kickoff: 3 p.m. CDT
Records: ASU 5-2, 3-0 SBC;
FAU 2-5, 1-1 SBC
Series: ASU, 1-0
Last time: ASU 3-0, 2005
Radio: ASU Radio Network
News Articles - ASU
Sunday, October 29, 2006
BY MATTHEW V. ROBERSON
SUN STAFF WRITER
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ? Two trips to the Sunshine State in the same season was one trip too many.
Arkansas State was completely out of its element while Florida Atlantic was right at home on Homecoming as the Owls brushed aside the Sun Belt Conference front-runner and defending champion with relative ease 29-0 Saturday afternoon at Lockhart Stadium.
ASU (5-3 overall, 3-1 Sun Belt) turned the ball over six times, including five interceptions, and was shut out for the first time since a 49-0 loss to Utah State late in the 2003 season. FAU (3-5, 2-1) led 13-0 at halftime and put the game out of reach with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to avenge a 3-0 overtime loss to ASU last year.
Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts was disappointed with the Indians? effort across the board.
?We didn?t play well. We didn?t play well at all,? Roberts said. ?Defensively, offensively, the kicking game ? none of it was up to the standard that we need to play at. When you don?t play at your best and somebody else plays at their best, they are going to win.?
Florida Atlantic held ASU to a season-low 104 yards offense with a defensive game plan geared to stop the run. The Indians managed just six yards rushing on 26 attempts as Sun Belt leader Reggie Arnold finished with 35 on 11 carries.
Arnold said the Indians were flat and played without the same emotion they had in winning four straight.
?We didn?t have a very good week of preparation,? Arnold said. ?If you practice horrible, you are going to play horrible, and quite frankly, that?s what happened today.?
With its running game shut down, Arkansas State turned to a suspect passing attack, and the Indians didn?t find success there either. Mistakes were the norm.
ASU quarterback Corey Leonard threw three interceptions, all of which were picked off by Florida Atlantic?s Corey Small. Leonard?s last interception resulted in a touchdown that typified an afternoon full of mistakes as Small returned the pick 22 yards for the final score of the day.
Leonard was 7-of-16 passing for 55 yards, while backup quarterback Travis Hewitt spelled him in the second half but encountered similar hardships. Hewitt was 2-of-8 passing for 43 yards with two interceptions of his own.
Leonard also fumbled the football on the exchange from center as ASU?s two quarterbacks accounted for every turnover. It was the most turnovers in a game by the Indians this season and gives them 26 for the year.
?It was just mental mistakes,? Leonard said. ?The two interceptions I had in the first half, we had good plays going, had guys wide open and I just didn?t get the ball to them. You can?t blame it on anybody but myself.?
Florida Atlantic dominated the first half to lead 13-0 at the break. The Owls held ASU to just 31 yards offense through the first two quarters while scoring on their first three possessions.
ASU?s hopes of second-half comeback began to fade when its first possession resulted in a safety.
Set to punt from his own 48, the Indians? Brett Shrable watched the ball sail over his head on a high snap from deep snapper Nick Emfinger. Shrable picked the ball up around his own 10 and tossed it through his own end zone to keep FAU from taking over deep in ASU territory.
The play resulted in a net loss of 48 yards and gave the Owls a 15-0 lead with 8:44 to go in the third quarter.
Neither team managed to move the ball with much success in the second half as ASU turned to Hewitt late in the third quarter. But Hewitt was intercepted by FAU linebacker Cergile Sincere to kill one drive, then was picked off by safety Kris Bartels on a deep ball to end another.
Bartels returned his interception 50 yards to the ASU 15 and set up the Owls? first TD of the second half. FAU quarterback Sean Clayton found fullback Aaron Sanchez open in the end zone on a roll-out pass for a 3-yard touchdown play that gave the Owls a 22-0 lead with 3:37 to play.
Small?s 22-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:31 to go in the game was the final straw.
?The interception felt real good, especially the touchdown part,? Small said. ?I guess I was more patient today, not worrying about picking the ball off and just trying to be at the right place at the right time.?
The first half was controlled by the Owls.
Florida Atlantic drove 79 yards on its first possession, taking 21 plays to melt 10:06 off the clock and set up the first of two Warley Leroy field goals. Leroy?s 21-yard kick gave the Owls a 3-0 lead with 2:58 to go in the opening period.
After Arkansas State failed to make a first down, the Owls took over at midfield and scored again.
Clayton completed a key third-down pass to Chris Bonner for a 14-yard gain to put the ball at the ASU 35 and set up the score. Backup tailback B.J. Manley then blew through a huge hole for a 35-yard touchdown run and 10-0 lead.
Leroy?s career-long 41-yard field goal gave Florida Atlantic a 13-0 lead with 9:40 to go in the second quarter and neither team scored the rest of the half.
The five interceptions tied a school record for FAU, while Small?s three interceptions were a single-game record for a player. It was the first shutout by Florida Atlantic in nearly two years with the last a 28-0 victory over Illinois State on Nov. 20, 2004.
?The defense has taken it to a new level and I?ve seen the offense take it to a new level,? FAU coach Howard
Schnellenberger said. ?Sometimes I get short with them at practice when I don?t think they take it to a high-enough level, but it is a higher level today.?
Florida Atlantic finished with 269 yards offense, including 178 on the ground as FAU dominated the line of scrimmage. Tailback Charles Pierre led the Owls with 122 yards on 24 carries.
While Roberts was disappointed with ASU?s inability to stop Florida Atlantic?s rushing attack, he couldn?t get past the team?s six turnovers.
?The turnovers were just unbelievable in this ballgame,? Roberts said. ?We turned it over and they scored. When you turn it over and give them opportunities like we gave them, then they are going to punch the ball in the end zone and you don?t have an opportunity to score. You can?t turn the ball over and win.?
News Articles - ASU
SUN BELT FOOTBALL : ASU gets burned on trip to Florida
BY TODD TRAUB
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. ? On Arkansas State?s second trip to Florida, the Indians? offense went south.
Arkansas State committed six turnovers and suffered its first shutout since 2003 as Florida Atlantic handed the Indians their first Sun Belt Conference loss, 29-0, before a crowd of 8,129 at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday.
?The bottom line is FAU played great. They played a heck of a ballgame. We did not play very well,? Arkansas State Coach Steve Roberts said. ?Didn?t play well at all. Defensively, offensively the kicking game, none of it was up to the standards we needed to play at. And when you don?t play your best and somebody else plays their best, they?re going to win the football game.?
The Indians brought the Sun Belt Conference?s top rushing game into the day while quarterback Corey Leonard was the league?s most efficient passer. But the Owls held the Indians to 6 yards on the ground, thanks in part to a huge team loss on a bad snap in a punting situation, and Leonard threw three of the team?s five interceptions.
FAU cornerback Corey Small intercepted Leonard all three times, once in the end zone in the first half. He returned his final interception 22 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring with 2:31 left.
Travis Hewitt came on in relief of Leonard in the second half and threw the other two interceptions.
?Our focus was not there taking care of the football today,? Roberts said. ?They did a great job of creating a lot of hurried throws and that type of stuff, but we?ve seen that all year. We?ve got to be able to deal with that.?
FAU turned three of the turnovers into 17 points. The Owls picked up another two points on a safety in the third quarter when Indians punter Brett Shrable picked up the ball and threw it out of the end zone to deny the Owls field position after Nick Emfinger snapped the ball over his head.
The Owls held Indians tailback Reggie Arnold, the Sun Belt?s top rusher entering the game, to 35 yards and sacked Leonard three times for 24 yards in losses.
?We didn?t have a very good week in preparation, and it carried over,? Arnold said. ?You practice like you play. You practice horrible, you?re going to play horrible, and quite frankly, that?s what happened today.?
The outcome was a far cry from the Indians? first trip to Florida when they beat Florida International 31-6, and it wasn?t what linebacker Josh Williams predicted earlier in the week when he said the Indians would shut out the Owls for the second consecutive year and the offense would move the ball.
?The whole team is hurt,? Williams said. ?I think we practiced hard all week. Guys came into the game with a good mind-set. Things just didn?t go our way. … I just didn?t expect it. We didn?t expect to come out here and get shut out.?
While shutting down Arkansas State, FAU produced a running attack as Charles Pierre carried 24 times for 122 yards.
Quarterback Sean Clayton was 9 of 19 passing for 91 yards with an interception and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Sanchez.
Leonard and Hewitt were a combined 9 of 24 passing for 98 yards.
?Just mental mistakes,? Leonard said. ?The two interceptions I had in the first half we had good plays going, we had guys wide open and we didn?t get the ball to them. You can?t blame it on anybody but myself. We didn?t come out and execute. We showed glimpses of some good things at certain points, but then it was right back to where we were.?
The Indians (5-3, 3-1 ), who needed a field goal in overtime to beat the Owls 3-0 last year, were shut out for the first time since they lost 49-0 at Utah State in the eighth game of 2003. They also saw a five-game conference winning streak dating to last year come to an end.
The Owls (3-5, 2-1 ) kept alive hopes of a title in a league where six teams still have a chance at a championship.
?The defense has taken it to a new level, and I?ve seen the offense take it to a new level,? said FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger, who helped the school start its football program five years ago. ?Sometimes I get short with them at practice, when I don?t think they take it to a high enough level, but it is a higher level today.?
The Indians? first-half possessions ended in a fumble and two interceptions, all by Leonard, and two punts. Leonard also was sacked twice in the half as the offense netted just 31 yards.
FAU scored on its first three possessions, including a 21-play, 79-yard drive in which the Indians turned in two goal line stands, the second after roughing the kicker on Warley Leroy?s 21-yard field goal. With the fresh downs, the Owls started at the 2, netted minus-2 yards and Leroy came on to kick another 21-yarder that made it 3-0 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.
The Owls? second scoring drive was shorter as they started at the 47 after a short punt and scored in four plays, with B.J. Manley running 35 yards for the touchdown with 14:03 left in the half.
The Indians appeared to get a break when a face mask was called after Robert St. Clair sacked Leonard, but Leonard fumbled on the next play and FAU recovered at the Arkansas State 46. The Owls then drove for Leroy?s career-long 41-yard field goal to make it 13-0 with 9:40 left.
Leonard threw his first interception to Small on the next drive, but the Indians got the ball back on a tipped interception by defensive end Rob Ramage, who rumbled to the Owls? 40 with 4:09 left. Arkansas State drove to the 24, but on third-and-6, Leonard threw into double coverage in the end zone and Small picked him off again to allow FAU to run out the clock.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE 34, LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 20
LAFAYETTE, La. ? Middle Tennessee (5-3, 4-0 Sun Belt Conference) took advantage of Louisiana-Lafayette?s sloppy first half en route to a victory that ended the Ragin? Cajuns? six-game conference winning streak. Four turnovers by Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3, 1-1 ) led to a 14-point Blue Raiders lead that never was in jeopardy. Middle Tennessee quarterback Clint Marks completed 19 of 26 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. In the third quarter, still trailing by 14, Louisiana-Lafayette moved the ball 86 yards in 13 plays on its opening possession but had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Drew Edminston. That score trimmed Middle Tennessee?s lead to 24-13 with 4:50 remaining. But Middle Tennessee (5-3, 4-0 ) countered. At the 9:30 mark of the fourth quarter, Colby Smith hit a 23-yard field goal to stretch the lead back up to 14 points. Middle Tennessee sealed the game with a 6-yard touchdown run by Eugene Gross with 5:53 remaining, completing a three-play, 41-yard drive. With 4:09 left in the game, Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Jerry Babb, who completed 12 of 24 passes for 182 yards with 4 interceptions, hit Corey Frederick on a 40-yard touchdown pass. After Kyle Ward recovered the onside kick, the Cajuns moved to the Middle Tennessee 31-yard line but Babb was intercepted by Damon Nickson ? his third takeaway of the game. Nickson added a fourth interception with 2:26 remaining. Tyrell Fenroy led Louisiana-Lafayette with 90 yards rushing on 16 carries.
TROY 14, NORTH TEXAS 6
TROY, Ala. ? Anthony Jones scored on a 5-yard run with less than five minutes to play as Troy defeated North Texas. Troy (3-4, 2-0 Sun Belt) was clinging to a 7-6 lead when Jones scored, capping an 11-play, 50-yard drive. Both teams had trouble moving the ball in the defensive struggle as the Mean Green were held to 230 total yards, while Troy managed only 243 yards offense. North Texas (2-6, 1-3 ) took a 3-0 halftime lead on a 20-yard field goal by Denis Hopovac with about five minutes to play in the second quarter. Gary Banks caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Omar Haugabook in the third quarter to give the Trojans a 7-3 lead. The Mean Green narrowed it to 7-6 on a 22-yard Hopovac field goal with about nine minutes to play. Troy took the kickoff after the Mean Green field goal and started the drive that ended in Jones? touchdown.
This story was published Sunday, October 29, 2006