Arkansas State tops Georgia Southern 38-33

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Arkansas State wide receiver Kirk Merritt (13) reacts after returning a kickoff 94-yards for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro, Ark. (Quentin Winstine/The Jonesboro Sun via AP)

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Layne Hatcher threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns, Kirk Merritt returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score and Arkansas State used a big defensive stand to hold off Georgia Southern 38-33 on Saturday.

Trailing 38-33 with 1:29 left after a missed Arkansas State field goal, the Eagles drove to the Red Wolves’ 34, but were stopped on downs.

Frank Lucchesi

Hatcher threw TD passes of 32 and 63 yards to Jonathan Adams Jr. in consecutive drives in the first quarter. Tukua Ahoia’s fumble recovery set up Hatcher’s 32-yard TD pass to Omar Bayless on the next possession. Later in the second quarter after Merritt’s kickoff return, Hatcher hit Merritt on a 27-yard TD pass for a 35-19 halftime lead for the Red Wolves (7-4, 5-2 Sun Belt).

Hatcher completed 19 of 24 passes. Adams had seven catches for 158 yards and Bayless, the conference’s leading receiver, had seven grabs for 113 yards.

Shai Werts threw three touchdown passes for the Eagles (6-5, 4-3) and rushed for 158 yards on 18 carries, including a 10-yard scoring run. He was 14 of 24 for 175 yards passing and was also sacked for a safety.