Arkansas State surges past Louisiana-Monroe

JONESBORO, Ark. — Ryan Aplin threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Stockemer to break a tie early in the third quarter, David Oku ran for 131 yards and three scores, and Arkansas State held off Louisiana-Monroe 45-23 on Thursday night to take the Sun Belt Conference lead.

Aplin was 26 of 34 for 334 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 44 yards and a touchdown to help Arkansas State (7-3, 5-1) run its winning streak to five games. The Red Wolves began the night tied for the conference lead with ULM (6-4, 4-2) and Middle Tennessee, which is idle this week.

Oku added 1- and 6-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter and a 4-yarder in the fourth. He finished with 22 carries, and J.D. McKissic led the Red Wolves in receiving with 12 catches for 102 yards.

ULM’s Cody Wells was 37 of 53 for 357 yards and two TDs, Brent Leonard had 14 catches for 134 yards, and Je’Ron Hamm added nine receptions for 102 yards. The Warhawks have lost two straight after winning five in a row.

After ULM opened the scoring on Wells’ 27-yard pass to Monterrell Washington, Arkansas State took a 14-7 lead on Aplin’s 35-yard TD pass to Julian Jones, and Aplin’s 38-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

Washington also had four catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.

The teams traded 37-yard field goals in the second quarter, with Justin Manton connecting for ULM and Brian Davis countering for Arkansas State.

The field goal was the longest of Manton’s season, and the second longest of his career.

The visitors jumped out to an early lead after an ASU punt following a three-and-out on their first possession. Wells marched the Warhawks down the field, completing passes to four different receivers before finding Washington on an out route, which the junior took 27 yards into the end zone. Wells was 5-for-5 on the drive, throwing for 69 yards.

ASU responded quickly, scoring on the ensuing drive when Aplin hit Jones to cap a seven play, 75-yard drive to even the score at 7-all.

ULM was whistled for an offside penalty during an ASU punt attempt on the Red Wolves’ next possession, allowing Aplin to score on a 38-yard scramble to put ASU up 14-7.

Arkansas State later went ahead 17-10 lead and had a chance to pad its lead in the second quarter, but safety Henry Mitchell intercepted Aplin in the ULM end zone to end the half.

After the ASU second-half opening kickoff went out of bounds, ULM’s offense moved down the field quickly. Wells connected with Leonard for a 17-yard third-down conversion, then found freshman Rashon Ceaser open down the seam for a 37-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17 apiece.

The tie didn’t last long, as Aplin hit a wide-open Stockemer for a 70-yard completion on the first play of the subsequent drive. Aplin ran toward the line and flipped a jump-pass to Stockemer, who raced open down the field for the score to give the Red Wolves a 24-17 advantage.

ULM turned the ball over on downs at the ASU 37-yard line on the following possession, and ASU’s offense continued to roll. A play-action bomb to Jones netted 46 yards to move the ball into the red zone, and the Red Wolves scored again when Oku plowed into the end zone on a fourth down and one. After a ULM punt, ASU marched back down the field and Oku found the end zone again on a 6-yard carry to extend the lead to 38-17.

Both teams tacked on late touchdowns to reach the final score of 45-23. Washington powered in for a score from the 1-yard line for Warhawks, and Oku added his third touchdown of the night several minutes later when he scored from the ULM 4-yard line.

The Warhawks return home Nov. 17 to face North Texas at Malone Stadium, with kickoff set for 3 p.m.