JONESBORO -- Arkansas State University sought a confidence booster.
Thursday's game was exactly that.
The Red Wolves' 51-35 midweek victory over Georgia State at Centennial Bank Stadium was an ideal remedy to cure the concern swirling around their stagnant offense. A nine-play, 75-yard opening drive was capped by ASU's first touchdown in October. The score and the subsequent victory dusted off the offense's grime and helped freshen up the Red Wolves' Sun Belt Conference season.
"Tonight," said redshirt sophomore linebacker Tajhea Chambers, "they really proved what they can do."
The offense was clicking so well for the Red Wolves (4-3, 1-2 Sun Belt) that they rolled to a 20-point first quarter and a 34-point first half on their way to a season-high 51.
Less than four minutes into ASU's first conference victory of the season, senior quarterback Justice Hansen lofted a 30-yard scoring toss to sophomore tight end Javonis Isaac, the first of the Red Wolves' five first-half touchdowns and Hansen's 68th career passing TD, the most all-time by an ASU quarterback.
"It set the tempo of the game," said senior wide receiver Justin McInnis.Gallery: ASU vs Georgia State Football
Georgia State junior quarterback Dan Ellington found sophomore receiver Tamir Jones for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 7:09 left in the first quarter to tie the score 7-7.
ASU kick returner and starting tailback senior Warren Wand took the subsequent kickoff 91 yards and set up an 8-yard rushing TD from Hansen, his first of two rushing touchdowns pairing with 17-of-28 passing for 257 yards and 3 passing TDs.
The Red Wolves scored a touchdown on three of their four drives in the 20-point first quarter, their highest-scoring quarter since they put up 27 points in the third against Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 1. A 35-yard strike from Hansen to sophomore receiver Jonathan Adams, Jr. put a bow on the opening quarter that uplifted ASU's offense out of a rut.
Concern surfaced after the Red Wolves' offense failed to score a touchdown in a 35-9 loss Oct. 9 to Appalachian State and in two quarters of their 28-21 loss at Georgia Southern on Sept. 29.
"Two losses in a row, that doesn't sit real good around our building," said ASU Coach Blake Anderson. "I thought the guys handled it really, really well. I think in a lot of places there would be panic setting in and frustration, obviously, but they did a great job."
Hansen found McInnis for a 6-yard score to stretch the Red Wolves' lead to 27-7 minutes into the second quarter.
Nose guard Javier Carbonell forced one of Georgia State's four fumbles with 10:57 remaining in the quarter before Chambers scooped it, charged 34 yards forward and scored ASU's fifth touchdown of the opening half.
"Man, it was a dream come true," said Chambers, a Georgia native who added that it was his first touchdown since his Tift County High School career concluded.
"First of all, I've got to credit to big Javi. He's the one that caused the turnover. The ball just kind of landed in my hands. At that point, my legs got weak. I was just running like, 'Is this really happening?'
The Red Wolves' 34-point first half was their highest-scoring half of the season. They forced two turnovers. They rolled up 346 total yards in two quarters.
"That is the recipe for success," Anderson said in a radio interview at halftime.
Hansen accounted for his fifth touchdown with a 22-yard run in the third quarter to make it 41-14 Georgia State scored two third-quarter touchdowns and two more in the fourth, the final coming with three seconds left in the game.
"I thought it was the most complete game we've played all season," Anderson said. "And it came at a good time."
Sports on 10/19/2018
Print Headline: Offense sings, zings: ASU wins with season-high 51 points