MANHATTAN, Kan. — Arkansas State earned a statement victory Saturday afternoon.
Senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. caught three touchdown passes, the last with 38 seconds left in the game, and the Red Wolves survived Kansas State’s last-gasp drive to stun the Wildcats 35-31 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
A Fox national television audience saw ASU (1-1) earn its first victory over a Power 5 conference foe since defeating Texas A&M to open the 2008 season. The Red Wolves had lost 21 in a row against teams that now play in the Power Five.
“It was fun, but not surprising,” ASU head coach Blake Anderson said during his postgame radio interview. “We believed all week we could win this game. We didn’t play great and still won it, they just kept believing and kept playing. … I thought we were competitive in every phase – not perfect, but competitive in every phase and just kind of rode out the storm, and then made less mistakes down the stretch than they did.”
ASU won without several players listed on its depth chart, including nine who were considered starters entering Saturday’s game. Those missing from the lineup included three linebackers, two defensive backs, two offensive linemen, a wide receiver and a running back.
That didn’t go unnoticed as Anderson reviewed ASU’s performance during his radio interview.
“If you paid attention to who was on the field, you would understand just how special this win really is,” Anderson said. “Guys stepped up, guys who didn’t even expect to be on the plane made plays today. They gave their heart out there for each other and found a way.”
Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher split quarterback duties again for the Red Wolves, with both tossing a pair of touchdown passes.
Bonner completed 17 of 28 passes for 204 yards. Hatcher was 6-of-8 for 61 yards, coming through in the clutch by tossing the 17-yard game-winner to Adams with 38 seconds to go.
When Kansas State (0-1) took the lead on Blake Lynch’s 35-yard field goal with 2:30 left in the game, it was Hatcher’s turn to take the field. He led the Red Wolves 65 yards in seven plays for the winning touchdown.
“He’s just a winner, he just is, how he’s handled this whole thing, how he’s made Logan better, how he’s kept a great attitude and said, ‘Whatever my role is, I’m going to do it the best I can and lead,’” Anderson said. “The guys never doubted, we never doubted, never even talked any changes in the (quarterback) rotation at all.”
Senior running back Jamal Jones had 32 yards on three carries in the winning drive, including a 12-yard run to the K-State 33. Hatcher found Brandon Bowling on the next play for 21 yards to the 12.
Hatcher had to cover a loose ball on the next snap, but then found Adams in the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown pass to give ASU the lead. The Wildcats moved from their 37 to the ASU 40 with three seconds remaining, but Skylar Thompson’s pass across the field sailed incomplete on the final play.
ASU limited Kansas State to 91 yards rushing while compiling 159 on the ground. The Red Wolves held a 489-374 advantage in total yards.
Adams caught eight passes for 98 yards. Roshauud Paul added up 77 yards on four catches for ASU.
Jones led all rushers with a career-high 95 yards on just 16 carries. Freshman Lincoln Pare was right behind Jones with 65 yards on four carries, with a long of 58.
Defensively, Elery Alexander and Jaden Harris tallied nine tackles apiece, while Fred Hervey and TW Ayers each notched a sack. Ayers played on the defensive line after catching a touchdown pass as a tight end in last week’s opener at Memphis.
Thompson completed 17 of 29 passes for 259 yards and two scores for K-State. Chabastin Taylor led the Wildcats with 98 yards on four grabs.
Kansas State blocked a punt to set up its first touchdown less than two minutes into the game. ASU responded with a scoring drive when Bonner connected with Adams from two yards out to even it up at 7-7 with under 10 minutes left in the first.
Kansas State scored the next 14 points. An interception set up Deuce Vaughn’s 3-yard run in the second quarter and Thompson found Briley Moore on a 7-yard touchdown pass for a 21-7 lead.
ASU cut into the deficit with the final score of the first half at the 6:50 mark when Jeff Foreman fired a strike on a double-pass play to Paul, who waltzed into the end zone untouched for a 48-yard score.
In the third quarter, Hatcher led ASU on a 77-yard drive that was highlighted by a 58-yard dash by Pare to the K-State 14. Hatcher found Giles Amos on an 8-yard pass over the middle to tie the game at 21.
Bonner led ASU’s next scoring drive, one that was kept alive on a fake punt when the Wildcats were whistled for pass interference as they tried to cover Adams. A double-reverse pass to Bonner worked for a 17-yard gain to the K-State 5 and Adams made a one-handed grab in the end zone for a 28-21 ASU lead with 11:49 remaining.
The Wildcats tied the game at 28 on Harry Trotter’s 5-yard touchdown run with 6:35 to play.
Next Saturday, ASU hosts Central Arkansas for its home opener. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.