The Opening Rant
The question today as Red Wolves administration, coaches, players, and fans awake to see that there is a morning sun after last nights embarrassing 28-23 loss to FCS in-state foe UCA, is just what is going on in Jonesboro? The answer to that is so broad right now that it may take Blake Anderson’s staff weeks to figure it out. The only problem is that they don't have weeks, they have 10 days before Georgia Southern comes to town on a Wednesday night ESPN telecast to kickoff the Sun Belt run for the defending champions. You remember the defending champions, right? The high powered offense that would average 49 points a game and overwhelmed Sun Belt defenses. The 2016 version stands at a whopping 17 points a game. The defensive unit that last year that led the nation in takeaways and defensive TDs and seemed to return everyone plus added talent in the offseason? That unit has created 4 turnovers in 4 games and only 1 INT while giving up nearly 500 yards a contest. The vaunted running game from a year ago that churned out 1500 yards on the ground from its two returning RBs this year has resulted in a grand total of 323 yds through 4 games but most glaringly only getting 45 on the ground against FCS UCA. But the issues seems to go deeper with an abundance of penalties and the lack of any consistency in the kicking game, whether it be punting or coverage. On Saturday night UCA used 2 punt returns by Tremon Smith, one for a 47 yard TD, to keep the Bears in it early. In the 3rd quarter with ASU driving, it seemed the offense was ready to turn the tide and pull away, an errant toss on a reverse allowed the Bears to get the ball back and march down field for a touchdown to make it 23-22. Instead of imposing their will on the UCA D, the offense turned to trickery to try and close out the game.
The player are having a closed door meeting on Sunday to address internal issues that are obviously preventing this team from reaching its potential and can hopefully find a way to help the coaching staff right the ship.
THE GOOD: ASU QB Justice Hansen came out Saturday night looking like Joe Namath with his white socks and white shoes but ending up playing more like Daryle Lamonica (feel free to GOOGLE it younger readers) throwing for 424 yards and a TD while averaging over 11 yards a completion. If Hansen is going to play the “Mad Bomber” role the rest of the year, then he may have found his Fred Biletnikoff, albeit a 245 lb version, in TE/WR Blake Mack. Mack hauled in 8 passes for 142 yards and seemed to be a physical mismatch against the Bears most of the night.
THE BAD: The most glaring issue of the night was the Red Wolves lack of physicality against an FCS opponent. There was no room to run between the tackles and the outside rushing game which seemed to have only one play, power toss to Warren Wand, could not set the edge consistently. The Bears held the ball almost 10 minutes longer than ASU and found ways to make plays to sustain drives.
THE UGLY: 45 yards of rushing on 34 attempts. ENOUGH SAID. Well maybe just one more thing, it would be interesting to see how far along Justice Hansen would be if he had been allowed to take the reins in game 1 and now have 4 games under his belt as conference play approaches.
WHAT BLAKE ANDERSON SAID: “We had a breakdown in special teams for seven points, and 34 minutes of possession for them just left our defense on the field too long. I felt like the momentum was getting away from us and we were stalling out offensively and leaving our defense out there too much. I felt like we would make a play at some point to stop it and we didn’t. The kids didn’t quit playing, they just didn’t play well. We had execution issues across the board that we have got to fix.”
WHAT UCA COACH STEVE CAMPBELL SAID: "They (offense) did it when they had to, against a team that has won, what, four or five Sun Belt titles in a row and been to bowl games four or five years in a row. They found a way to get it done and I'm very, very proud of those guys.”
UP NEXT: Georgia Southern (3-1/ 2-0 Sun Belt) -Wednesday Oct. 5 -7pm kickoff CST @ Centennial Bank Stadium- Jonesboro, Ark- Broadcast on ESPN2