JONESBORO -- Arkansas State University brought field goals to a touchdown fight.
Against Appalachian State, the Sun Belt Conference's East Division favorite that scored 45 or more points in three consecutive weeks prior to Tuesday, the Red Wolves' three field goals were inadequate offensive support to even make the Mountaineers flinch.
As ASU's offense sunk, the Red Wolves were stung 35-9 on Tuesday at Centennial Bank Stadium, the second of their first pair of back-to-back Sun Belt losses since 2014.
"It's real simple: We're not playing very good football," ASU Coach Blake Anderson said.
Arkansas State failed to complete any of its 16 offensive drives with a touchdown, converted just 3 of 17 third downs and has scored a touchdown in just two of its past eight quarters -- all underwhelming marks worthy of concern.
"I don't care if I've got to revamp the whole thing, I've got to find out what this group can do," Anderson said. "It doesn't matter what groups in the past have done. It matters what this group can do."
"It's not good," ASU senior quarterback Justice Hansen said.
The Mountaineers turned Tuesday's game into a dismantling after a defensive slugfest broke out early.
Appalachian State countered a 31-yard first-quarter field goal and a 47-yard second-quarter field goal from Red Wolves freshman kicker Blake Grupe with a 27-yard touchdown run from tailback Jalin Moore with 11:13 left in the half for a 7-6 lead.
Grupe, whose 47-yarder was a career high, added a 33-yarder with 4:37 left in the half for a 9-7 ASU lead. The Red Wolves would not score again, but Appalachian State was not done in the first half.
A 25-yard touchdown pass from Mountaineers quarterback Zac Thomas to receiver Corey Sutton put Appalachian State ahead for good at 14-9 with 2:57 remaining in the first half.
The Red Wolves faced third and 1 at their own 17 on the ensuing possession, but Hansen was picked off by Tae Hayes, who returned the interception to ASU's 3. Darrynton Evans' 1-yard touchdown run put the Mountaineers ahead 21-9 at the half.Gallery: ASU vs App State Football
Hansen, who entered Tuesday's game one passing touchdown shy of setting a new school record, never found No. 68 as the Red Wolves' offense was stuck in a rut during a scoreless second half.
ASU's offense didn't veer from a strategy dedicated to beating the Mountaineers with short passes and runs even as the deficit swelled to 26.
Hansen finished 25-of-40 passing for 209 yards and 3 interceptions on his rockiest night of the season.
"I just never felt like we got in a rhythm, Justice or anybody else, to be honest with you," Anderson said. "I did not see it ever looking clean. It just seemed muddy and sluggish all night offensively."
Hansen had thrown two interceptions through five games previously this year. He eclipsed that total in a little more than three quarters before being replaced by Logan Bonner midway through the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand.
Depth is a severe issue, Anderson said. The Red Wolves traveled with just 68 players to Georgia Southern on Sept. 29. The lack of a deep roster and an unknown offensive identity -- other than relying on Hansen often -- are a few of the elements that have sent the offense barreling downward and have forced ASU to deploy "smaller game plans" the past two weeks.
Sports on 10/10/2018
Print Headline: Red Wolves left behind; early FGs no match for Mountaineers