Don't look now, but the most important game of the bowl season is upon us. If you liked Arizona (almost) rallying late against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, or TCU wishing Ole Miss a happy New Year in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, or the new normal of the College Football Playoff... then the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl game is just for you!
...Alright, not even I can muster that kind of excitement for this game, but this GoDaddy Bowl is an intriguing matchup between #FunBelt and #MACtion. Especially for the beat writer of the Sun Belt team partaking in said game.
We all know about Michael Gordon's excellence, Blake Anderson's propensity for madness, but what are some of the unsung heroes, zeroes, statistics, trends of these Red Wolves? We'll roll through those as the undertone, or contrast, to a more obvious trend. (It's a little something called efficiency.)
Call this the treat of your Holiday season as you're waiting for a second serving of College Football Playoff. Welcome to Mobile, AL, for the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl game, would you like some eggnog as we set the table?
While Fredi Knighten excelled, he was also inconsistent.
There's no point in starting elsewhere-because the most important Red Wolf was the one with the ball in his hands the most. Though certainly not unsung, the junior and first-year starter at quarterback finished with an average of 304.1 yards of offense per game, but he also led an offensive unit that sputtered on third down and in the red zone. Red Wolves were explosive (12th for plays of over 40 yards), but couldn't always replicate that success over the long haul. Perhaps that explains their paltry time of possession. Red Wolves run sprints, not marathons, sure, but there's always a threat to pull a hamstring.
While Arkansas State finished 112th in the FBS for field goal percentage, kicker Logan Spry is a stud.
Our favourite moment of the 2014 regular season happened against the Texas State Bobcats when Logan Spry surprised everyone-including the A-State athletics website, where he was not listed on the roster-to make his debut with the Red Wolves. His origin story is for another time, right now just look at his biceps. #STUD!
While A-State struggled kicking field goals, and was merely decent at punting, it had a great return game.
With Blaise Taylor handling punt returns and Daryl Rollins-Davis lighting the world on fire on kickoff returns, the Red Wolves often had a leg up on their opponent... whenever their kickers weren't the ones putting booth to ball. (You can't have it all, A-State fans!)
While the A-State run defense finished 93rd against the run, it was even worse in conference games.
While it's certainly plausible to say that it is the sad run odyssey in Lafayette that prompted the Red Wolves' downfall this season, it's undeniable that it's this game that sapped A-State's confidence against the run. The Ragin' Cajuns have two stud running backs in Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris, certainly, but "two stud running backs" does not usually equate 419 yards and eight rushing touchdowns allowed. On that day, the dream had died, if only unofficially, because A-State knew it had another five games in a Sun Belt full of excellent rushing attacks.
While A-State could not tackle running backs in the open field, it was great at it in the backfield.
While the Red Wolves weren't quite on the level of the (Clemson) Tigers, they certainly spent a lot of time in their opponents' backfields this season, with almost 7 tackles for a loss per game. Add quarterback sacks to these, and opponents saw red whenever the big bad wolves duo of Chris Stone and Freshman All-American Ja'Von Roland-Jones lined up to rush. The problem for A-State, of course, came when runners escaped the pressure-and that problem may be compounded at the bowl game by the fact Roland-Jones has suffered a season-ending injury. That's 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss that the Toledo Rockets will not need to worry about in Mobile, AL.
While Qushaun Lee was the heart of the defense, he was also at the heart of most A-State tackles. And also nabbed four interceptions. In short, Lee was great.
While the 96 tackles are impressive, they are not especially high for someone playing his linebacker position. Managing four interceptions, however, is good regardless of position-Lee tied for the A-State lead for both interceptions and inspiration, and we genuinely believe that the senior can do no wrong.
The Red Wolves ranked No. 114 in the FBS with 99 penalties.
That's it. We don't contrast it with a positive, because-oh, you insist that we must? The Red Wolves's 70.9 penalty yards per game was 118th in the country, there! There are no positives to penalties, only negatives.