MOBILE, AL (News release) - An Allen Muse touchdown catch with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter and a Ryan Carrethers field goal block as time expired propelled the Arkansas State football team to a 23-20 comeback victory over Ball State in the GoDaddy Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday.
Ball State took a 20-16 lead, its first of the second half, with 1:33 left in the fourth quarter before A-State’s R.J. Fleming returned the ensuing kickoff to the Red Wolves’ 41-yard line. On the third play of the drive, Fredi Knighten found J.D. McKissic for a 26-yard gain to the Ball State (10-3) 19-yard line and two plays later found an open Allen Muse in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown catch to give Arkansas State (8-5) a 23-20 lead.
Ball State started its final drive on its own 36-yard line with the aid of all three timeouts and advanced to the A-State 46-yard line with six seconds remaining in the game. The next play, Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning found Willie Snead for a 10-yard gain to the A-State 36-yard line with two seconds left, but an A-State late hit out-of-bounds penalty gave the Cardinals 15 more yards to the Arkansas State 21-yard line. Ball State kicker Scott Secor came out to attempt a 38-yard field goal for the tie, but Carrethers blocked the kick to clinch Arkansas State’s second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl victory, 23-20.
“I just want to say that it takes special, special young men to do what they have done,” A-State interim head coach John Thompson said. “And to do what they did tonight, that was an example of the kind of people they are. They’re fighters, and they overcame, and they’re people that I’ve got great respect for.”
Knighten stepped in for injured quarterback Adam Kennedy midway through the second quarter and finished the game with 115 yards passing and one touchdown to earn MVP honors. Knighten also led the A-State rushing attack with 97 of the team’s 202 yards.
McKissic led A-State with 72 yards on nine receptions to win offensive MVP, while Muse was second with three catches for 14 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Defensively, Qushaun Lee led Arkansas State with 15 tackles and garnered defensive MVP honors, while Sterling Young and Xavier Woodson also recorded double-digit tackles with 10 each. Kyle Coleman and Rocky Hayes both recorded a sack a piece and Lee also had an interception with 33 yards returned.
With the game tied 10-10 at halftime, A-State watched the opening kickoff of the second sail out-of-bounds and started its drive at its own 35-yard line. On 3rd-and-five from the A-State 40-yard line, Knighten found McKissic for a 21-yard gain to advance the ball to the BSU 39-yard line and two plays later Michael Gordon had a 15-yard run to the BSU 26-yard line. However, the drive stalled at the Cardinals’ two-yard line and Brian Davis connected on an 18-yard field goal to give the Red Wolves a 13-10 lead.
The next Ball State drive ended when Brock Barnhill and Sirgregory Thornton thwarted a Cardinals’ fake punt attempt and A-State took over on the Ball State 30-yard line. The Red Wolves obtained one first down, but couldn’t get any further than the BSU 12-yard line and had to settle for a Davis 29-yard field goal to increase their lead to 16-10 with 7:21 left in the third quarter.
Ball State responded early in the fourth quarter with a 37-yard field goal from Scott Secor to cap an 11-play, 72-yard drive to cut the A-State lead to three at 16-13 with 12:58 to go in the fourth quarter.
Ball State forced an A-State three-and-out on its next possession, but Arkansas State’s Lee picked off a Keith Wenning pass and returned it to the BSU eight-yard line on the Cardinals’ ensuing possession. A-State gave it right back to Ball State three plays later when Knighten threw an interception in the end zone. The Cardinals proceeded to drive 80 yards on 16 plays to take a 20-16 lead on a Jahwan Edwards one-yard touchdown run with 1:33 remaining in the game.
Arkansas State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half and forced a three-and-out by Ball State after Hayes sacked BSU’s quarterback Wenning at the BSU 12-yard line. A-State promptly drove the ball down to Ball State’s 17-yard line, but Davis missed a 34-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless.
Later on in the first quarter, the Cardinals struck first with a 14-play, 89-yard drive capped by a nine-yard touchdown pass from Wenning to Willie Snead to set the score at 7-0. Ball State kept the lead into the start of the second quarter, but A-State forced a Ball State punt from the one-yard line after a Coleman sack and started its first drive of the second quarter from BSU’s 43-yard line. The Red Wolves drove to the Cardinals’ 24-yard line before the drive stalled and Davis connected on a 41-yard field goal to set the score at 7-3 in favor of Ball State.
Ball State responded with a 14-play, 67-yard drive to earn a 10-3 lead after a Secor 26-yard field goal. Arkansas State started its drive after the BSU field goal at the 4:02 mark in the second quarter and at the Ball State 37-yard line. A 27-yard rush by Fleming on a trick play got the Red Wolves to the BSU 24-yard line before A-State had 4th and goal at the one-yard line. Arkansas State elected to go for the touchdown and Thornton powered his way over a Ball State defender into the end zone to tie the game at 10-10 with 48 seconds left in the half. Ball State ran out the clock to send the game to halftime tied 10-10.
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