Thirty years after the last meeting in the 1986 FCS National Championship game between Arkansas State and Georgia Southern the two teams met in Jonesboro for a Sun Belt conference contest. The Red Wolves would pull out the late game victory for their first win of the season, 27-26.
The Red Wolves’ offense took the field and got going quickly. Three big pass plays put the Red Wolves inside the Eagle 20-yard line. On their first run, the Arkansas State running back coughed up the football and the Eagle defense was able to give their offense a chance to score. Unfortunately, the Eagle offense failed to get things going and was held to a three and out. A bad handoff on the ensuing possession resulted in a second fumble in two drives and the Eagles were given a second change to get points on the board. After a failed fourth down conversion the offense was sent back to the sidelines. A third fumble by Arkansas State put them nearly 20 yards away from the first down marker and they were forced to punt. The Eagles had to start their drive further back after a holding call gave them a 1st and 20. Another drive went by and both offenses failed to pick up a first down. L.A. Ramsby was the first Eagle to put his team on the board when he took a carry 61 yards to the house. Arkansas State took to the ground to work their way back into the end zone. When it looked like they were about to put points on the board, a pass was tipped by Eliqwe and intercepted by Joshua Moon for the third Eagle turnover in the first quarter. After a three and out, the Red Wolf offense moved down the field in two plays inside the Eagle 10-yard line.
Opening the second quarter, the Eagles had their first elongated drive of the year. The team picked up three first downs in a row as the team appeared to slow down. After picking up three first downs, the Eagles relied on Younghoe Koo to knock down a 32-yard field goal to give them a 10-3 lead. A mismanaged kickoff pinned Arkansas State at their own 3-yard line to start their next drive. Despite the field position, the Red Wolves went on a 97-yard drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown pass to tie up the game. After the long rest, the Eagle offense took the field and wanted points before half. The team was able to work the ball down the and set up a 53-yard field goal, which was a career long for Younghoe Koo. The half would end with the Red Wolves killing the clock on the ground.
The third quarter opened on a positive note for the Eagles as they converted their first third down of the night. They kept working the ball down the field with more passing than fans are used to seeing. Once inside the red zone, Upshaw would check into the drive for his first play of the game. The drive would end with a third field goal from Koo to put his team up, 16-10. Arkansas State failed to get the ball moving and punted it back to the Eagles. On the third play of the drive, Ellison ripped a pass over to Myles Campbell who shook a couple defenders and scored on a 63-yard catch and run. The next drive would show that the game wasn’t over yet as the Red Wolves broke free on a 55-yard touchdown run to pull the lead to only six. The Eagles’ final drive of the quarter ended without a first down and they were forced to punt out of their own end zone. Two plays later, the Eagles were inside the five-yard line and were held up on third down and forced to kick another field goal with Koo. His fourth field goal of the night put his team up, 26-17. Arkansas State would commit their fifth turnover of the night after throwing a pick, giving the Eagles the ball once again with just over 11 minutes to play in the game. After forcing a punt, the Red Wolves used the ground game to continue to grind down the defense and break deep into Eagle territory. The drive would end in a field goal and give the Eagles the ball back with a six-point lead with only six minutes left in the game. After burning only two minutes of clock and not picking up a first down, the Red Wolves had the ball again. They worked the ball down the field and faced a fourth and six inside the Eagle 40-yard line and failed to convert. However, with three timeouts they were able to stall the Eagle offense and force a punt, only losing 20 seconds. The Red Wolves were able to convert a 4th and 16 on the next drive to keep the ball moving. They breached the Eagle 40-yard line with :33 left on the clock. A big completion put the Red Wolves inside the ten-yard line and with :09 remaining the QB Hansen lobbed a pass into the end zone for the game winning score.