Redskins

Arkansas St tops No. 25 Kent St in GoDaddy Bowl

201301062148784963000-p2.jpeg

Arkansas St tops No. 25 Kent St in GoDaddy Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) Ryan Aplin's productive passing career helped carry Arkansas State to two Sun Belt Conference championships.

For his final college game, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior didn't have to be the hero.

Aplin completed 21 of 30 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown and J.D. McKissic caught 11 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown, but it was a bruising defense that was the biggest factor in Arkansas State's 17-13 victory over No. 25 Kent State on Sunday in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.

``You always hope to blow the other team out, but tonight was one of those grinds,'' Aplin said. ``The saying goes that defense wins championships, and they won it for us tonight. I'm their biggest fan.''

Arkansas State's offense was dominant during the last half of the regular season, averaging more than 41 points during a seven-game winning streak. But big plays were hard to find on Sunday night, and the Red Wolves (10-3) leaned hard on their defense to capture their first bowl win since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1992.

It's also the first time Arkansas State has beaten a nationally ranked opponent.

The victory didn't come without some drama. Kent State (11-3) was driving late in the game when quarterback Spencer Keith tried to scramble on fourth down and was stopped a few yards short of the marker with 52 seconds left. Linebacker Qushaun Lee made the shoestring tackle for the Red Wolves and finished with a team-leading 13 stops.

``That was a good one,'' Arkansas State interim coach John Thompson said. ``Our guys stepped up with a minute to go. We really needed a play, and our guys made one. It wasn't anything except for ballplayers. It was anything special at all. We just made plays.''

Darrell Hazell roamed the Kent State sideline one more time in the Golden Flashes' first bowl game since 1972. He is leaving the program to take over at Purdue.

``It's hard not to come away with a win,'' Hazell said. ``I have some strong feelings for the guys right down the hallway here. I'm going to miss those guys.''

Arkansas State's great defense is a sign the program might keep up its winning ways even without Aplin, who ends his career with nearly every school passing record. New coach Bryan Harsin - who is known for his work as the offensive coordinator at Texas and Boise State - takes over a program that has won 20 games over the past two seasons.

Thompson, a veteran defensive coordinator, coached the Red Wolves on Sunday after Gus Malzahn left to take the Auburn job last month. It was the second straight season Arkansas State had to play its bowl game without the coach that led it to a Sun Belt championship - Hugh Freeze left for Mississippi in 2011 before last year's GoDaddy.com Bowl, which the Red Wolves lost 38-20 to Northern Illinois.

The results were much better this time - and the defensive-minded Thompson was especially pleased with that side of the ball.

Kent State took a 7-0 lead on Dri Archer's 16-yard touchdown run and the margin could have been worse, but Arkansas State linebacker Nathan Herrold picked off a tipped pass in the end zone to end a promising drive for the Golden Flashes.

Arkansas State's David Oku rushed for a tying 10-yard touchdown with 5:40 remaining in the second quarter, and then Aplin hit McKissic for a 31-yard touchdown minutes later to make it 14-7.

This wasn't one of Aplin's more spectacular games, but he was consistent, made very few mistakes and had no turnovers.

That was no small feat against Kent State, which led the nation with 38 takeaways coming into the game. The Golden Flashes couldn't get one against the Red Wolves.

``That was a huge part of our game plan,'' Aplin said. ``We knew we couldn't afford to give them momentum. Our guys did a great job taking care of the ball and giving our defense a chance to help us win.''

Kent State responded with a 42-yard field goal by Freddy Cortez just before halftime to pull within 14-10. The teams traded field goals in the third quarter, but neither team could score in the fourth.

The Golden Flashes put together one last drive in the final minutes, with Keith completing a clutch 15-yard pass over the middle on fourth down with less than two minutes remaining. He was headed for another fourth-down conversion just four plays later, but was tripped up on a scramble deep in Arkansas State territory. The Red Wolves then began to celebrate on their sideline.

``I saw their defense drop back really fast, and I thought I had enough room to get the first down,'' Keith said. ``But they were able to get me on the ankle.''

It was a disappointing end to an otherwise breakthrough season for Kent State, which set a school record with 11 victories, including a 10-game winning streak that lasted nearly three months. But they dropped their last two games, including a 44-37 double-overtime loss to Northern Illinois on Nov. 30 in the Mid-American Conference championship.

One reason Kent State was able to win so many games was a dynamic rushing attack that averaged more than 250 yards per game. But the duo of Archer and Trayion Durham didn't have a particularly good game against the Red Wolves.

Archer, who missed much of the second half with an apparent injury, led the Golden Flashes with 77 yards rushing while Durham added 68. Keith completed 17 of 33 passes for 157 yards and one interception.

-----

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

Quick Links

Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith

image_from_ios.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith

Pro tip: If you see new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith in a restaurant, try to sit close by.

Talk to teammates and media from San Francisco or Kansas City, the two cities Smith played in before coming to Washington, and stories like this emerge. His reputation for generosity and random kindness is as consistent as his ability to move the football with his legs and not throw many interceptions.

His foundation is heralded as one of the best in the NFL, where more than 90 percent of funds raised actually go towards charity, significantly higher than the national average. Once traded from Kansas City, Smith wrote a letter on The Player's Tribune thanking fans:

Thank you to the Chiefs Kingdom for being some of the craziest, most dedicated fans in the country. And thank you to the Kansas City community and all the friends my family and I have made during our time with you. To see all the farewell donations that have been made to the Alex Smith Foundation — all in increments of 11 — has been really special. It’s a tremendous gesture that my family and I have been very touched by. We appreciate you. We’re better people because we were fortunate enough to spend the last five years with you.

So what might have Smith ordered at Bareburger DC? Let's take a guess from their online menu. 

  • The Buckaroo - Beef, aged cheddar, smoked brisket, wild mushrooms, smoke sauce, brioche bun - After spending a few years in Kansas City, Smith might have acquired the taste for brisket on burgers. Who knows.

  • El Matador - Beef, queso fresco, guacamole, spicy pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, green leaf, brioche bun - Smith is a SoCal kid, so maybe he needed the guac and bold flavors of his youth. 

  • Impossible Burger - American cheese, caramelized onions, dill pickles, green leaf, special sauce, brioche bun -The Redskins mission is getting to the playoffs, and many oddsmakers view that as impossible. Maybe Alex wanted to embrace it?

  • So Cal - Turkey, aged cheddar, guacamole, pickled red onions, alfalfa, sprout bun - Again, Smith is from Southern California, and this burger sounds pretty healthy. You don't get to look like this picture below by eating too many Buckaroos. 


Here's the truth: Smith is cool and bought a bunch of random people dinner. What's cooler: He doesn't have or use social media to broadcast when he does random nice acts. 

This week he and the Redskins travel to Richmond for training camp, and things will get serious about football and the 2018 season. Enjoy the fun stuff for now. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.

Quick Links

10 Questions in 10 Days: After Kerrigan and Preston, do the Redskins have enough pass rush?

kerrigan-smith_vs._eagles_usat.png
USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 Days: After Kerrigan and Preston, do the Redskins have enough pass rush?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

No. 3: After Kerrigan and Preston, do the Redskins have enough pass rush?

Ryan Kerrigan does not get the national respect he deserves. Year after year, Kerrigan proves to be one of the best sack specialists in the NFL. Last season, he finished tied for fourth in the NFL with 13 sacks, and ranks in the Top 5 for sacks over the last three years. 

Kerrigan is durable and more than capable, and gives the Washington defense an anchor at outside linebacker. Opposite Kerrigan comes Preston Smith, a fourth-year player that has shown a ton of potential and the ability to take over games. 

Smith is yet to go for double digit sacks in a season, but going into a contract year, this might be his best shot. He also contributes in other ways; an ability to tip passes and grab interceptions, force fumbles with his long frame, and even enough speed to keep up in some pass coverages. 

Kerrigan is a high-end Mercedes Benz. Smith is a 3-series BMW with a chance at the M3 engine. After that, the cars don't look so good. 

Make no mistake: Free agent addition Pernell McPhee could be a great value signing for Washington. If he stays healthy.

He hasn't played a 16-game season since 2014, and last year, he started just five games and logged only four sacks. His frame is much bigger than a typical 3-4 outside linebacker, which means he might help more against the run in base defense. McPhee graded out well by Pro Football Focus last year, and plenty of scouts think he can deliver this fall. Again, if he stays healthy. 

After McPhee comes second-year man Ryan Anderson. He delivered zero as a rookie. Zero. 

Plenty of players, however, make a big improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Maybe Anderson is that player in 2018. 

A second-round pick in 2017, Anderson played sparingly in 14 games last year and delivered just 11 tackles. No sacks. Coaches said Anderson was not in NFL shape when he arrived as a rookie, but that excuse won't fly this time around in training camp.

The Redskins need Anderson now, in a way the team did not last year. 

Going to camp in 2017, outside linebacker had strong depth. Kerrigan, Smith, Trent Murphy and Junior Galette were the veterans Anderson could learn behind. Now Murphy is in Buffalo and Galette is unsigned. 

There is some hint that Galette could still land back in Washington. The team does not have a true speed rusher, and Galette would change that immediately. Kerrigan is a brute force tactician, and Smith is an athletic handful, but neither possess the speed of Galette. 

That signing seems like a long shot, and odds are the Redskins will need a lot from Anderson or McPhee. Or both. Neither Kerrigan nor Smith has ever missed a game in their career, a remarkable feat, but hardly something the organization should rely on. 

Improved play along the interior of the defensive line will help the outside by a large margin. If Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis collapse pockets from the inside, then Kerrigan and Smith will feast off the edges. 

That could trickle down for McPhee and Anderson as well. But much as the defensive line improves with more depth and rotating players, so too does outside pass rush. Washington made a smart move to bolster their interior defensive line this offseason, but it left the defense a little leaner on the outside. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below.