The best-case scenario for South Alabama fans was that the game would mimic this National Geographic video. The Jaguars would, like this feline in Brazil, arrive in Jonesboro and hang around and hang around, withstanding the first onslaught from the home crowd to lull the A-State fans into thinking it was safe and, right at the perfect moment, strike deep and fast. And the crowd at Centennial Bank Stadium wouldn't know what hit them.
Yeah, the problem with this scenario is that while a jaguar has the strongest bite of all felids, it's pointless if the animal is already wounded. And against A-State, South Alabama was missing eight starters...before it lost wide receiver Marvin Shinn to a leg injury in the first quarter. If the animal is wounded and can't run, then the red wolf will feast. By now, you know the drill-let's overreact to as convincing a beatdown as A-State has had in a while!
Just because something ultimately doesn't hurt a team doesn't make it any less of a problem. I am not in the business of easy love, I am in the business of tough love. And my tough love this week goes to the field goal kicking unit, which has been a problem all season long. After a 1-for-3 performance against the Jaguars, kicker Luke Ferguson is now only 8-for-15 in 2014. That's a .533 average, but this isn't baseball unfortunately.
While I understand that the kicking game is a problem for many smaller and mid-major teams, and that it had no bearing on this week's result for A-State, it doesn't mean that it will never hurt A-State. Just ask a Boise State fan.
I Cried Wolf
I have no design on passing for an individual who's super vain or who loves to complain about anything from this 45-10 win. But the point of this category is to highlight a trend that is, at the very worst, simply benign so let's do just that. I'm in the doctor's office, crying wolf and no one will hear me.
"You know, you should really get these penalties checked out. You had another eight infractions against South Alabama, which is precisely your season average and good for 109th in the country. It could cost you dearly one of these days.
-Yeah, but it hasn't. So shut up."
Howl Of The Night
Well well, it turns out that quarterback Fredi Knighten is good at football. Not only that, but he finally played the kind of game that we-okay, I-have been hoping he could. For the 30th time in its past 44 games, A-State scored at least 30 points but it's the manner with which it did that has me hopeful. The big play was still there, but the Red Wolves didn't rely solely on it as they had against, say, Louisiana-their shortest touchdown drive lasted a whopping five plays, which is basically 25 for any other team. Knighten was a big reason why, accounting for 266 total yards and three total touchdowns. Reverse Kid CuDi didn't always say "Good Night" and when the defense kept the daylight openings to a minimum, he took what USA gave him.
While it was South Alabama who wanted this win to gain bowl eligibility, the end result was the same for head coach Blake Anderson's squad. While the Red Wolves might hope for bigger and better things in the form of a fourth straight Sun Belt Conference title, and while they will chase that dream as long as they remain in an REM stage, the fact of the matter is that REM sleep doesn't last forever. And sometimes, waking up can be hard.
Looking ahead, let's hope they can remember this safety net. That's "they" as in the Red Wolves, and "safety net" as in this first step of becoming bowl eligible. With it, they can continue on their treacherous pursuit of Louisiana and Georgia Southern-it's there to catch them should they fail.
Which Poutine On The Menu?
Coach Anderson, maybe try the hot dog poutine this week. Business-like, this meal treats the boys while reminding that more work lies ahead.