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Arkansas State University held off a determined Life University team to win 28-22 in DI-A Mid-South action Saturday in Jonesboro, Ark.
The Red Wolves were behind much of the match, as they started the game going against a stiff wind in the first half.
Arkansas State did score first, with a try from Rob Hayslip. ASU held that
lead for a good portion of the second half, but constant pressure from Life
with the wind at their backs finally told. Calvin Nell bulled over for a
try to tie it, and then Joe Cowley slotted two penalty goals to put Life up
Then prop Paris Hollis blocked a kick - again that pressure - and gathered the ball and ran in to score. That made it 16-5.
"Going against the wind, we knew Life was going to have the run of it, so we had to be patient and know that when we had the wind we just needed to keep to our pattern and we'd get some points," said Arkansas State flyhalf Patrick Sullivan.
And that's just what happened. Sullivan pushed over a penalty to make it 16-8, and while Cowley answered with a penalty of his own, ASU started to reel in the Running Eagles.
Sullivan scored a try and converted to make it 19-15, and then hit a penalty to put Arkansas State ahead 20-19.
The final 15 minutes or so were very tense, as neither side wanted to make a game-losing mistake.
Cowley kicked his fourth penalty of the day to give Life the lead 22-20. Sullivan answered to make it 23-22. And then, with time winding down, Dale Bates scored to put Arkansas State up more than an unconverted try 28-22.
Then the Red Wolves held on.
"It was intense at the end," said Sullivan. "You just need to keep making your tackles and making positive yards on offense. That's what Coach [Alex] Houser has drilled into us - just keep making positive plays."
Sullivan praised his team for sticking to their game plan even when they were down, and not trying to bridge the deficit in one play.
"We knew what Life would bring - they were going to challenge us, and this was one of the most physical games we play every year," said Sullivan. "But we just had to keep the ball moving."
"Life ran ten or more phases seven times," said former Arkansas State Head Coach Matt Huckaby, who ceded his job to Houser this year but was at the game supporting the team. That stat came from Life coach Scott Lawrence, who had the stats broken down seconds after the final whistle.
"Life ran over 100 phases today, they were just amazing. But I am proud of
the boys and Alex Houser as coach. We've lost to Life so many times, but
playing these tough games makes you better, and you can see that."
Arkansas State goes to 1-0 in the DI-A Mid-South, while Life drops to 1-1, but gains a bonus point for a close loss and remains in first place.
The game was played in front of a crowd of at least 700, and, said Huckaby, "it was great to see so many students here to see a game of this caliber."
Arkansas State 28
Tries: Hayslip, Sullivan, Bates
Convs: Sullivan 2
Pens: Sullivan 3
Tries: Nell, Hollis
Pens: Cowley 4