The one and done era at Arkansas State is now one for the history books. It will forever be part of the lore of modern Red Wolves football. The foot that stopped the revolving door in Jonesboro belonged to head coach Blake Anderson. AD Terry Mohajir hired Anderson from Larry Fedora’s staff at North Carolina following the 2013 season and immediately put in place a multi-million dollar buyout deal to slow the coaching slip and slide out of Jonesboro. How does that investment and choice in coaches look after three seasons of on field performance? We look back and rank each season to see what the program has done under Anderson and where it is headed.
#3 2014 SEASON 7-6 OVERALL / 5-3 SUN BELT (4TH PLACE)
The Blake Anderson era began with an efficient victory over FCS member Montana State but found itself returning home with a 1-2 record after road losses to Tennessee and Miami. A tough, gritty OT win over Utah State at home showed that there was still enough talent on the roster to be a serious contender. But as the season grind took its toll on the defensive line, the lack of depth and injuries turned it into the Achilles heel of ASU. The unit would rank 103rd in the country against the run and would give up over 200 yards per game. The Red Wolves would lose three conference games, the most since the 2010 season, surrendering 137 points total (45.6 PPG) to Louisiana-Lafayette, Appalachian State, and Texas State. The season would end with ASU being manhandled by Toledo 63-44 in the GoDaddy Bowl.
#2 2016 SEASON 8-5 OVERALL / 7-1 SUN BELT (T-1ST)
If you want a season that is an emotional roller-coaster, then 2016 delivered just that. After starting 0-3 with losses to Auburn and Utah State on the road and a blowout loss to Toledo at home, the Red Wolves limped home hoping a date with in-state FCS foe Central Arkansas would be the cure for their ills. The game would go from remedy to nightmare with a 28-23 loss to the Bears. This left ASU 0-4 for the first time since 2001. What happened next was not expected anywhere except maybe inside the locker room. The monsters of the mid-week returned and found a way to defeat favored Georgia Southern on national TV 27-26 and would begin an unlikely six game conference win streak which included a road thrashing of then #25 ranked Troy. Only a close call on a last second fluke play at Lafayette kept ASU from a perfect conference record. The Red Wolves would physically dominate Central Florida to take the Cure Bowl in the season finale.
#1 2015 SEASON 9-4 OVERALL / 8-0 SUN BELT (1ST)
The non conference slate for this edition of Anderson’s Red Wolves was a mixed bag which included blowout losses to Southern Cal and Toledo while the potential signature win for ASU turned into an oh-so-close home loss to Missouri 27-20. Once the Sun Belt schedule started, the offensive firepower along with an opportunistic defense, proved too difficult for conference foes as ASU scored 389 points (48.6 PPG) and topped the 50 point mark three times rolling to an 8-0 conference record. Injuries and depth concerns once again caught up with ASU in the bowl game as they were manhandled by old nemesis Louisiana Tech 47-28.
Where does this lead to as we enter year four of the Blake Anderson era? Hopefully to a more stabilized roster that wont require so much reliance on transfers and JUCO players during the recruiting process and the opportunity for the staff to focus on developing more high school talent. Also as Anderson gets back more involved in the offensive play calling, there will be a return to the offensive creativity that attracted the interest of Terry Mohajir to bring the coach to Jonesboro.