“…it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
---A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Friday night against the scenic backdrop of the Bear River Mountains a story played out in front of 21,091 at Maverik Stadium. Not quite a tale of two halves but more like a tale of nearly 3 quarters, as Arkansas State stumbled and bumbled like a new born deer before finding their legs in the 3rd quarter and most of the fourth before finally succumbing to the Utah State Aggies 34-20.
SEASON OF DARKNESS: FIRST HALF
- Two turnovers by starting QB Chad Voytik led directly to 14 first quarter Aggie points.
- stAte had 95 yards in penalties and only 92 yards of offense at halftime.
- Eight first half Red Wolves offensive drives featuring 6 punts and 2 turnovers.
- The rushing game netted 9 yards in the first half.
SPRING OF HOPE: SECOND HALF
- After turning to QB Justice Hansen in the first quarter, he proceeded to go 18-of-26 for 277 yards and a touchdown.
- The defense held Utah St to 6 of 16 on third down conversions.
- Until the final drive, the defense had held Utah St to 77 yards of offense.
- The offense gained 265 yards in the second half, nearly as much as their total offensive output in the first two games.
- The Red Wolves were within 7 late in the fourth quarter but penalties, an INT, and a late long TD drive by the Aggies doomed the rally.
Coach Blake Anderson : “We found ways to get stops and get pressure on the quarterback and create turnovers, but I do not like the outcome. I thought we had a couple chances to win it there in the second half, but we needed to get another stop, not turn the ball over, or settle for a field goal.”
Utah State QB Kent Myers: “Offensively, I think we came out and played well. We got up on them really fast, then just kind of took our foot off the pedal and went downhill. Overall I think we ran the ball well. We thought we’d throw a little bit more on them, but they came in and played us a little differently. Adversity hit, but we came back and drove the ball down the field and got the W.”
Arkansas State created too much adversity Friday night with an abundance of penalties and early turnovers but once the swap at QB was made from Voytik to Hansen, the team seemed to settle down. Some offensive momentum was created through pushing the ball downfield with more of a vertical passing game. The lack of a consistent running game still haunts the team. There is a need for someone else other than Warren Wand to help make the rushing game go, like a healthy Johnston White. Defensively, the team found a rhythm and a confidence in the second half but still too many penalties and poor tackling plagues the unit. There were flashes of the speed and athleticism that was expected in preseason.
The UCA Bears visit Jonesboro next weekend looking to catch a wounded 0-3 stAte program looking ahead to Sun Belt play. Kickoff is set for 6 PM at Centennial Bank Stadium and the game will be streamed live on ESPN3.