=== Red Wolves and Huskies square off in GoDaddy.com Bowl ===
Mobile, AL (Sports Network) - Conference champions will be meeting for
bragging rights in this year's GoDaddy.com Bowl as the Sun Belt Champion
Arkansas State Red Wolves will square off with the Northern Illinois Huskies
of the Mid-American Conference.
The bowl was formerly known as the GMAC Bowl until last year. In 2001, the
bowl set a record for the highest scoring post-season game of all time as
Marshall defeated ECU 64-61 in double overtime. Although that is a high tally,
it is not impossible that the record is in jeopardy as these two juggernaut
offenses square off.
Arkansas State is 10-2 and on a nine-game winning streak. Its last loss was
Sept. 17 to Virginia Tech as it went undefeated in Sun Belt Conference play to
earn its first ever outright title. Running backs coach David Gunn will be the
interim head coach for the bowl game after Hugh Freeze took the head coaching
position at Ole Miss. This will be Arkansas State's first bowl appearance
Northern Illinois is on an eight-game winning streak after it lost its MAC
opener to Central Michigan in a shoot out. The Huskies come into the bowl with
a 10-3 record after rallying from 20 down to win the MAC Championship game
23-20 over Ohio University for their first conference title in 28 years. First
year head coach Dave Doeren had a great deal of success this season as he led
the program to its fourth-straight bowl appearance.
These programs are not complete strangers as it will be their eighth all-time
meeting. Northern Illinois has won six of the previous seven encounters.
Arkansas State had the 23rd best attacks in the nation and the best in the Sun
Belt with an average of 453.2 yards of total offense per game. The Red Wolves
averaged 33.5 points per game, and they have scored 30 or more in six-straight
outings. Ryan Aplin is the driving force for Arkansas State. The junior
quarterback is ranked 10th in the nation in total offense per game as he led
the team in passing (3,235 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 65.5
percent completion rate) and rushing (605 yards, nine touchdowns). Aplin was
named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.
Aplin credited to his teammates for his success.
"I can throw two-yard passes that turn into 10 or 15 yard gains. It definitely
makes my job easier how many unbelievable athletes we have on this team that
can make big plays. You put the ball in these guys hands its tough for
defenses to scheme for it"
Dwayne Frampton, Josh Jarboe, and Taylor Stockemer made up the best trio of
receivers in the Sun Belt. Frampton led the conference as was ranked 18th
nationally after gaining 1125 yards and six touchdowns on 90 catches. Jarboe
and Stockemer were both in the top 10 in the Sun Belt as well. Although the
offense is primarily uses an air-it-out philosophy, Derek Lawson will get in
the mix. Lawson is 92 yards away from 2,000 career rushing yards.
While the Red Wolves are very impressive on offense, they might be even better
on the defensive side of the ball as they ranked either first or second in
their conference in every defensive statistical category. Opponents managed to
gain just 325.7 yards of total offense and score 19.3 points per game against
Arkansas State this year. Brandon Joiner makes a huge impact as ranked fourth
in the nation with 12 total sacks and second in the SBC with 15.5 tackles for
Northern Illinois has a very similar design to its opponent offensively.
Chandler Harnish led the Huskies in passing and rushing to rank eighth
nationally in total offense per game with 332.6 yards per game. Harnish led
his team to the eighth best offense and 13th highest scoring offense in the
nation. Harnish set more than 20 school records during his four years. Harnish
has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for a career-high 2,942 yards and
rushed for 1,382 while having a hand in 37 touchdowns - 11 rushing and 26
Harnish mentioned the importance of his team's experience and the influence it
had on their performance this season,
" We've been down in games before and I think it is a blessing in disguise to
play those close games throughout the year and learn resiliency."
Three different Huskies have caught 39 or more passes. Nathan Palmer led the
wideouts with a career-high 46 catches, for 683 yards and seven scores. Jasmin
Hopkins is one of the top running backs in the MAC. Hopkins has run for 932
yards and 15 touchdowns on 178 carries.
The Huskies' defense was not very consistent this season. Northern Illinois
ranked 89th in the nation in yards of total offense allowed (417.8 per game)
and points allowed (31 per game). The Huskies gave up over 500 yards to its
opponents five different times. In the MAC Championship game, Northern
Illinois' defense allowed Ohio to gain 372 yards of total offense, but held it
to 20 points and collected three interceptions. Senior linebacker Pat Schiller
is the anchor of the defense with a team-best 108 tackles.
01/08 11:05:47 ET