Arkansas State senior linebacker Justin Rice and redshirt freshman punter Ryan Hanson were named Monday as the Sun Belt Conference’s Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively, for their performances during the Red Wolves’ 50-27 victory over Central Arkansas.
Rice, who was also tabbed the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s FBS Defensive Player of the Week, recorded a season-high 12 tackles and career-best 4.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks against the Bears. Not only were his 3.0 sacks the most by a Sun Belt player this season, they tied the seventh most in school history for a single game.
The Modesto, Calif., native also tied the most single-game tackles for loss in the nation this season. He reached double-figure stops for the first time this year, but the ninth time of his career.
Hanson set new season-best numbers for punts (5), yards (260), average (52.0), punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line (3) and longest punt (69 yards) during A-State’s home opener against UCA. His 52.0 average per attempt was the best by a Sun Belt player this season and ranked as the fifth best in school history for a single game.
The Taylor, Texas, native had two punts travel at least 50 yards, including one covering 69 yards that was the longest to date by a Sun Belt player. Hanson put the Red Wolves in position for their first points of the game with a 64-yard punt that pinned UCA on its own two-yard line, setting up an A-State safety. His other two punts inside the 20-yard line were downed on the UCA 2 and 9 yard lines.
Including Rice and Hanson, Arkansas State has now had four Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week selections this season. Junior kicker Blake Grupe was named the league’s Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 7, while senior wideout Jonathan Adams Jr. tabbed the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 14.
Arkansas State returns to action Thursday, Oct. 15, with a 6:30 p.m. Sun Belt Conference game against Georgia State that will be nationally-televised on ESPN.