Arkansas State hits the road on Sun Belt title quest

Updated: October 24, 2003, 1:52 AM ET

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Continuity has escaped Arkansas State so far this season.

The Indians (3-4, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) opened the season with a solid defensive effort against Texas A&M in a loss and then won easily over a pair of NCAA Division I-AA opponents.

Since then, Arkansas State has been blown out three times on the road and barely survived a 44-41 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. The Indians open a stretch of five conference games this Saturday with the long trip to face Utah State (1-6, 1-1), one of five one-win teams in the Sun Belt.

"I'm more concerned with our football team and how we approach this game and how we compete than I am with Utah State," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said. "We're in a situation where things should even out as far as the level of competition for the next few weeks."

Three of Arkansas State's final five games are on the road, including another trip out west to play New Mexico State.

Utah State, in its first Sun Belt season, has played one of the toughest schedules in the conference. The Aggies had road games against Utah, Nebraska and Arizona State and a home game against Wyoming. Those four teams have a combined record of 19-9.

Utah State also lost to New Mexico and it lost 37-27 last week to North Texas. The 27 points tied for the most the Eagles have given up on their current 14-game Sun Belt winning streak.

Aggies coach Mick Dennehy said Arkansas State isn't difficult to prepare for because the Indians just line up and come after people.

"They are playing with a group of athletes that are similar in talent to a lot of teams that we have in our league in terms of speed and athletic ability," said Dennehy, who is 14-26 in his fourth season at Utah State. "They don't do a lot on defense. They are not a particularly hard team to prepare for in terms of what they do."

The Aggies picked up their victory with a 28-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

"Look at who they have played in their first ball games of the year," Roberts said. "Almost everybody that they have played outside the conference has a winning record. They played some tremendous opponents and have fared well and competed well."

While Arkansas State likes to set up quarterback Elliot Jacobs with a running game manned by three tailbacks, Utah State doesn't hesitate to lean on the passing arm of Travis Cox.

In his first year as Utah State's starter, Cox is leading the conference in passing at 211.6 yards per game. In the loss to North Texas, he became just the fourth Aggies quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in seven straight games.

On the season, he has completed 132 of 248 passes with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.

"Offensively, they are led by their quarterback Travis Cox, who is a big, strong, physical quarterback," Roberts said. "He has great accuracy and loves to throw the football, particularly to his back and his tight end."

Last week, running back David Fiefia rushed for 83 yards and caught a career-high nine passes for 37 yards against North Texas. Fiefia has rushed for 539 yards in seven games and caught 24 passes for 202 yards.

Tight end Chris Cooley leads the team with 31 receptions for 346 yards and he ranks third in the Sun Belts with 5.17 receptions per game. He leads the team with four touchdowns, one of which came on a run.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index