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September 7, 2009

Inside Slant: ASU Kicks Off With Big Win

INSIDE SLANT

There was nothing for Steve Roberts to be unhappy about, save for a couple of key injuries.

"We did what we needed to do, we came out and got a victory," the Arkansas State coach said after his team opened with a 61-0 rout of 1-AA Mississippi Valley State.

"I was very proud of the preparation of our young men, coming out and taking care of business. We got to play a lot of people tonight and got sloppy towards the end on special teams, but I thought our offense and defense continued to play well. We got a lot of guys on scout team who never get an opportunity to play, and we rewarded them by letting them play in the third and fourth quarters."

But the easy victory was tough on the depth chart as seniors Dominic Padrta (offensive guard) and Evan Van Dolah (safety) both suffered career-ending injuries.

Reggie Arnold ran for 126 yards and four touchdowns and Corey Leonard became the program's all-time yardage leader by passing for 129 (and a TD) and running for seven more to pass Cleo Lemon's ASU record.

In all, a great way to open, but really just a tuneup for the trip to No. 24 Nebraska, next up on the Red Wolves' docket.

Redshirt freshman running back Don Jones debuted with 84 yards and a touchdown running and also caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Leonard, who slid past Clem Lemon (1997-2000) on the all-time yardage list.

Season Recap: Arkansas State 61, Mississippi Valley 0-Reggie Arnold ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns, redshirt freshman Don Jones scored once on the ground and once through the air and Corey Leonard became the program's all-time yardage leader in the easy win over the 1-AA opponent. The Red Wolves outgained the visitors, 496-69, and used all kinds of personnel to get ready for No. 24 Nebraska.

NOTES, QUOTES

• Saturday night's opening win over Mississippi Valley State was costly for Arkansas State, which lost offensive guard Dominic Padrta and safety Evan Van Dolah to leg injuries that end their seniors seasons in the first game. "I hate it for those two guys that got hurt tonight," said ASU coach Steve Roberts. "Those are two fifth-year seniors that had great careers here. My heart goes out to them. As a football team, we've got to find people that step up and replace those guys. That's a tough deal."

• QB Corey Leonard threw for 129 yards and ran for seven more to pass Cleo Lemon and become the program's all-time yardage leader. Leonard now has 7,433 yards, while Lemon (1997-200) finished with 7,309.

• RB Don Jones, a redshirt freshman making his college debut, ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on nine carries (one a 44-yarder) and also caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Leonard.

• The shutout win was ASU's first since a 3-0 overtime win over Florida Atlantic in 2005. "Like Coach Roberts said down there in the locker room, shutouts are not easy to come by anymore, so that's a really special thing to hold on to," said defensive tackle Bryan Hal. "We worked hard throughout the whole game and our backup guys and everybody came in and did a great job of securing it for us."

• The ASU defense gave up only 69 yards and five first downs in the opening win. Twenty-six players were credited with at least one tackle and no one had more than five.

• The opening game drew 21,056.

• Former ASU defensive end Steve Bryant donated $150,000 to the program for the head coach's suite.

Game Ball Goes To: RB Reggie Arnold-The man they call "Monsta" ran for 126 yards and four touchdowns, one of them from 26 yards out, as he took his first step toward a fourth straight 1,000-yard season.

Keep An Eye On: The Red Wolves on the road in Lincoln-This team is thinking of itself as a bowl team and Game 2 is a huge test at No. 24 Nebraska.

Quote To Note: "It's a win and that's the biggest thing for us. We've learned the past couple of years we've got to take whatever win you can get. Regardless of who you are playing, you have got to set a game plan and go out there and execute."-Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard after the 61-0 drubbing of 1-AA Mississippi Valley State.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Looking Good: Just about everything as the Red Wolves went through a great tuneup for the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska and the No. 24 Cornhuskers. The offensive line created openings all night and Corey Leonard did what he had to do. The defense yielded just 69 yards and five first downs in the game.

Still Needs Work: ASU has to get prepared for a quality opponent and has to face the rest of the season after losing a pair of fifth-year senior starters (offensive guard Dominic Padrta and free safety Evan Van Dolah) for the season.

Roster Report:

• QB Corey Leonard passed Cleo Lemon to become ASU's all-time yardage leader and now needs 613 yards passing to fly by Richie Woit (1950-53) as the all-time passing champ at the school. He also has several other records in front of him.

• Leonard and DE Alex Carrington were named Sun Belt Conference offense and defensive preseason players of the year, respectively, Leonard sharing his honor with Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith.

• DE Alex Carrington was quiet in the opener, with just two assisted tackles. He was close to a sack but quarterback Paul Roberts slipped away.

• DT Bryan Hall had 1.5 sacks for the Wolves.

• RB Reggie Arnold is trying to become only the eighth running back in NCAA history to record four straight 1,000-yard seasons. He entered the season as the nation's No. 3 active rusher and notched 126 yards in the opening win over Mississippi Valley State.

• LB Javon McKinnon led a crowded ASU tackles list with five and also forced a fumble. "We played exceptionally well tonight," he said. "It was a good come out, turned out how we wanted it to."

• WR Brandon Thompkins had a balanced game with two catches for 65 yards, including a 59-yarder, a kick return for 30 yards and punt return for 29 more.

• Senior CB Greg Smith, playing for the first time, blocked a punt.

• QB Phillip Butterfield, considered at or near the top of the Wolves' incoming class, was lost for his freshman season with knee surgery, but not on his ACL.

• CB Paul Stephens, projected as a co-starter at his position, was dismissed from the team for violation of team rules.


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