LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ Arkansas State has reached quite a few milestones lately.
The Indians tied for their first Sun Belt Conference title last year _ and went to the New Orleans Bowl, their first bowl game since moving back up from Division I-AA before the 1992 season. Last week, they beat Army for their first win in a season opener since 1995.
Now, Arkansas State will try for another watershed moment _ a victory over a major conference team. The Indians host Oklahoma State on Saturday night at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
``We have a tremendously difficult challenge ahead of us this week,'' Indians coach Steve Roberts said. ``They are one of the most talented teams that we have an opportunity to play since I have been here from a physical standpoint. They are strong, and big, fast, they have a ton of recovery speed.''
Arkansas State is 0-13 against current Big 12 schools. In fact, the closest the Indians have come to beating a team from a major conference in recent memory was a 15-15 tie at Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference in 1993.
But Arkansas State has been improving lately. The Indians beat Army 14-6 last weekend for their first non-conference win over a Division I-A school since 2002, and last year, they lost 20-10 at Oklahoma State in a game that was close throughout.
``They played us much tougher than what we thought they would, and the reason why is that they were a pretty good team,'' Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. ``They play good defense and they can really run the football. They went on to win enough games to get to a bowl.''
Oklahoma State beat I-AA Missouri State 52-10 last week in its opener _ an easy win that has players optimistic they can improve on last year's 4-7 record. Bobby Reid threw four touchdown passes, and Mike Hamilton rushed for 155 yards.
The Cowboys were also impressive on special teams. Freshman Perrish Cox returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Jason Ricks made a 53-yard field goal, Matt Fodge averaged 53 yards per punt, and Oklahoma State averaged 26 yards on six punt returns as a team.
``Hopefully, last week will not be the norm for them throughout the course of the season,'' Roberts said. ``It was a year's worth of highlights on special teams.''
Roberts expects Oklahoma State to be aggressive on defense _ he says he counted 48 blitzes in the Missouri State game.
Redshirt freshman Reggie Arnold ran for 140 yards last weekend for Arkansas State, and the Indians used two quarterbacks. Travis Hewitt was 7-of-11 for 75 yards, and Corey Leonard was 4-of-5 for 22 yards.
Arkansas State's defense held Army to 164 yards.
``It's the same team, the same guys that stuffed us last season,'' Gundy said. ``They went through the season after they played us and got better and better.''