Referees Fumble Red Wolves Upset in Nebraska


LINCOLN, Neb. – The Arkansas State football team took two shots at the end zone from 11 yards out in the final seconds of its season-opening game at Nebraska, but the Huskers held off the Red Wolves 43-36 in front of 90,171 fans at Memorial Stadium Saturday.

Quarterback Justice Hansen completed 46-of-68 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns. His 46 completions established a single-game school record and he connected with nine different receivers. Chris Murray had nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown while Kendrick Edwards hauled in eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Christian Booker (7-72), Omar Bayless (7-42) and Blake Mack (5-50) each had over five receptions.

The Red Wolves out-gained Nebraska 497-463 on the game with 415 of the 497 total yards coming via the passing game. The Huskers churned 225 rushing yards while quarterback Tanner Lee was 19-of-32 passing for 238 yards. Kyle Wilson led the A-State defense with 10 tackles while B.J. Edmonds added career-high nine total tackles, six solo.

“We had so many opportunities,” A-State head football coach Blake Anderson said. “We didn’t create a lot of turnovers, which is something we pride ourselves on and we had a lot of dropped passes, two of which would have been touchdowns and that changes the game. All of that is fixable and it is all within our control but not what we expected either.”

“Their running game is powerful, but I thought our defense did a good job with bend and don’t break. We put them in some tough situations a couple of times with field position, but offensively we couldn’t get any rhythm going in the third quarter. We kept getting close and we had a couple balls over the middle that didn’t pan out like we wanted, but that is on me and it is something we will get better at. We have the makings of a really good football team, if we just correct the mistakes we made tonight. There is no quit in this football team and there is no quit in this staff. I think people realize we are going to play 60 minutes regardless of the score and these guys are never going to give up.”

Trailing 43-29 with 4:18 to play, A-State used a 12-play, 63-yard drive to get within one score. Hansen completed 7-of-9 attempts on the drive, hitting six different receivers along the way. Edwards snagged his first career touchdown reception with a 3-yard grab with 47 seconds remaining to set the stage for a potential game-tying score.

A-State lined up for the onside kick and Murray batted the ball away from an awaiting Nebraska hands team member and recovered at the Nebraska 44-yard line. Hansen connected with Mack on first down for 12 yards, but back-to-back incompletions saw A-State face 3rd-and-10 at the 32-yard line. Hansen spotted Edwards on the left side of the field for an 11-yard gain and a penalty moved A-State to the Nebraska 11-yard line.

Nine seconds was showing on the clock and the Red Wolves targeted Justin McInnis in the end zone on first down, but the pass was deflected setting up one more chance at a tie score. Hansen elected to target Edwards in the back of the end zone on the next play, but the pass was just out of his reach setting the final score.

Nebraska opened the scoring on the night with a 21-yard field goal, but the A-State defense held strong inside the 10-yard line to keep the Cornhuskers to the three points. The Red Wolves would respond in a big way as Blaise Taylor returned a punt 63-yards for a score to give A-State a 7-3 lead with 4:53 on the first quarter clock. It was Taylor’s fourth career punt return touchdown.

The Cornhuskers answered right back with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to lead 10-7. A-State worked a nine-play, 87-yard drive to retake the lead at 14-10 with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter. Hansen was 8-for-8 covering 83 yards on the drive and found Chris Murray for a 29-yard touchdown strike.

After Nebraska scored on each of their next two possessions to lead 24-14 five minutes into the second quarter, A-State drove deep inside Nebraska territory. The Cornhuskers came up with the first turnover of the game as a defensive lineman batted a pass by Hansen and the Huskers came up with the interception at the one yard line. The Red Wolves defense swarmed on the first play and Kyle Wilson came away with safety to make it a one possession game again at 24-16 with 6:54 left in the first half.

The Red Wolves used a 10-play, 61-yard drive following the free kick trimming the deficit to 24-23. Hansen completed 6-of-8 on the drive for 36 yards and he connected with Blake Mack for a three-yard touchdown pass.

Despite Nebraska advancing 41 yards on the ensuing drive, the A-State defense held the Huskers to a field goal. Trailing 27-23 approaching halftime, the Red Wolves had one final attempt at scoring. Hansen added 30 more yards to his passing total and his final pass of the first half, an 11-yard completion to Mack, set up the Red Wolves with a look at a field goal as time expired in the first half. Sawyer Williams lined up a 39-yard field goal and split the uprights to send the game to halftime with A-State trailing 27-26.

Nebraska scored a pair of touchdowns before A-State found the scoring column in the second half.  Trailing 41-26, A-State took over at the 25-yardline looking to drive the field to make it a one possession game. Hansen added five more completions to reach a new-single game school record of 38, but replay overturned a second touchdown for Murray and A-State settled for a field goal. Williams booted the field through from 31 yards to make it 41-29 with under 10 minutes to play.

A-State hosts Miami (Fla.) Saturday at 2:30 p.m. inside Centennial Bank Stadium for a nationally-televised contest on ESPNU. Tickets are available by visiting or by calling 870-972-2781.

Blake Anderson Post-Game Press Conference:

Opening statement

“I’m not much for moral victories as you guys know, so getting close is not what we came here for. I’m pleased with how the guys played, pleased that they didn’t give up, we had a chance to throw the ball into the end zone a couple times there in the end, but at the end of the day I feel like we made mistakes that cost us the game. Obviously Nebraska is a great football team, and I think the world of Mike Riley and his sta . But looking at this one, just coming o , I feel like we had a winnable game. We had opportunities to win it. We played well enough at times to win it, but too many costly mistakes, and it really comes down to not being able to create turnovers defensively, too many missed tackles defensively and drops on o ense. And the penalties, they cost us, so, we got to get them xed and it doesn’t get any easier a week from now with Miami coming in. But I do feel like we’ve got a good football team in the locker room, that can improve, needs to improve in a week, and will. I haven’t looked at any stats yet. I really don’t know what the numbers look like other than the fact that we didn’t win, we didn’t score enough points.”

On third quarter performance

“Nothing about the third quarter was what we wanted. I thought we got o -rhythm o ensively. We kept coming up just a little bit short. We couldn’t quite get the rst down to create momentum. Defensively they were struggling to tackle. I thought we got back into our rhythm but not what we anticipated with how the second quarter went. I thought we kind of repeated the rst quarter a little bit, just in terms of o -rhythm and dropped balls and turn a guy loose here and a missed tackle there, defensively. Those are things that we’ve got to come out better in that third quarter when we’ve got some momentum going in our favor.”

On final play

“We had a lot of options, that’s something that we’ve worked, we spent a lot of time on making sure that if we end up in that scenario that we’ve got more than one option. That ended up being the best option based o of what happened and we got a ball to a guys hands. It’s a tough catch for him, it’s a catch that we know he can make, and he will make some other ones during the day that were just as tough or tougher. It was well-defended. But for us, in that situation, you wanna make sure that you get a ball in the end zone. That you have a chance. And I thought that we got that, not only on that play but the play before. And we had a chance to win. And we can make a tough catch in tra c, which is what it’s going to take down there in that team. I mean, they know we’re not running it, we know we’re not running it, so they’re going to defend the end zone and they did and we still got two opportunities, we just have to make one of those plays. ”

On reversed fumble call

“The one that wasn’t called a fumble? Yeah they blew forward progress down, which is absolutely what they’re not supposed to do in that scenario. They’re supposed to blow it, stop the play, and let it be reviewed. They know that, I know that, and they missed it.”

On close game against Nebraska

“It proved to me that we’re capable of being a good football team. That doesn’t surprise me, I thought. People have been asking me all week what I thought, and I told them we were going to give Nebraska all they can handle. I think we had a chance to win this game and expect to win. So I’m frustrated that we didn’t do that. You don’t get that opportunity that often, and we had it, and didn’t. But I do believe there is a good football team in that locker room. I think there’s improvement that can be made, obviously, if we just catch the ball and if we tackle better. You know, the game has changed dramatically and those are two things that we can control. Those are well within our abilities to improve in those areas. And honestly, we’ve not dropped the ball all fall camp. That was not the same group of guys. I don’t know if it was the stage, if it was just the length of Nebraska and how much space and hands and arms were thrown around. That’s a little di erent than what we see on a daily basis. But it’s just not what we expect it’s not something we’ve done and it hurt us. It hurt us in some critical, critical situations tonight. Two of which, were dropped in the end zone.

Junior Wide Receiver Kendrick Edwards
On the last play
“The last play was specialty designed for me to run across the field and go up forward, but I was only able to get one hand on it. It was almost there. I felt it slip out my hand. It was very catchable.”

Junior Quarterback Justice Hansen
On the final play:
“It was pretty much man-on-man pretty much across the board. I saw Kendrick [Edwards], he’s a big body running into the back of the end zone to get into his catch radius and see if he can make a play on it.

The biggest take away:

“I think we got a good football team. I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. One thing I was telling the offensive linemen in the first quarter was that two or three plays where we were getting our 10 yards that we needed to for first down, the problem was we were 1st-and-20, 2nd-and-15. We were just hurting ourselves.”

What to work on offensively:

“Clean up the little things. Some false starts here, some miscommunications, some turnovers and drop balls. I think if we start cleaning up the little things on offense, it could make a huge difference.”

Senior Wide Receiver Chris Murry
On Arkansas States’ first touchdown:
“The first drive, we had to get our feet wet. We had a lot of new pieces and a new game plan. Once we got comfortable, we just got on the road and the result was a touchdown.”

On the difference between the first couple of drives versus the last couple of drives:

“I feel like we just got comfortable, the line came together and we just believed in ourselves and we had to come together like a team like we did to continue to make plays.”

On the last play:

“It happened the way it happened the way we practiced it, the outcome wasn’t what we wanted but we gave ourselves a chance and that’s all that matters at the end of the game.”

On losing to Nebraska:

“I feel like we kinda may let this game haunt us for the rest of the season. It hurts because we had a chance. We have to know that we have a great team, special teams, defense and offense. We just gotta get over this one and get ready for Miami next week.”

Senior Defensive Back Blaise Taylor
On Nebraska’s offense:
“I think we had a good game plan and we were prepared for what they were going to do. We knew that they were going to come in with a post out offense huddle and try to run the ball. We were prepared, we just have to execute better.”

On Tanner Lee

“We saw what we thought we were going to see coming into the game. They ran the same exact offense that they ran last year. We knew that there were not going to be a lot of QB runs because the guy last year only ran a little bit. Outside of that, the offense was pretty much the same.”

red wolves close to upset in nebraska

Tags: ,