Arkansas State beats Ball State 23-20

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 6, 2014 at 3:31 am •  Published: January 6, 2014
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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Arkansas State was down to an interim coach, a backup quarterback and less than a minute remaining in the game.

None of it fazed the Red Wolves, who are used to a little bit of postseason adversity.

Allen Muse caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Fredi Knighten with 32 seconds remaining to lift Arkansas State past Ball State 23-20 at the GoDaddy Bowl on Sunday night.

Ball State had a chance to tie at the end of regulation, but Scott Secor's 38-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Ryan Carrethers as time expired.

For a second straight season, Arkansas State shrugged off a coaching change to win the GoDaddy Bowl.

Arkansas State lost coach Bryan Harsin to Boise State in December. He's the latest in a string of three ASU coaches, including Hugh Freeze (Mississippi) and Gus Malzahn (Auburn), who have left the program for a more high-profile job.

John Thompson was the team's interim coach for a second straight season, and the veteran defensive coordinator led a staff that managed to cobble together a workable offense with Knighten, who replaced injured starter Adam Kennedy in the second quarter.

Thompson was not retained by new coach Blake Anderson — the former North Carolina offensive coordinator who is Arkansas State's fifth head coach in five seasons — but is confident he left the program in good hands.

Despite all the coaching changes, Arkansas State has won 28 games over the past three seasons, turning into one of the Sun Belt Conference's best programs.

"Arkansas State is not just that little football team up there in northeast Arkansas," Thompson said. "Arkansas State should now have a national brand. I don't think there were many other football games going on tonight. There are a lot of good things about (this win)."

Knighten rescued Arkansas State's offense on Sunday after Kennedy left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury, finishing with 115 yards passing and 97 yards rushing. Muse, who considered quitting football following his father's suicide three years ago, wound up with the biggest catch of the night just five plays after Ball State scored what appeared to be the decisive touchdown.

"I'm extremely blessed," Muse said. "It's really hard to put into words what this means."

Ball State (10-3) went ahead 20-16 with 1:33 remaining on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jahwan Edwards, but couldn't hold the lead. Edwards finished with a game-high 146 yards rushing, but had to watch as Arkansas State rallied for the win.

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