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Butch Jones: Arkansas State’s Camellia Bowl Loss An Accumulation of Mistakes

Arkansas State v Ohio State Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

An unfortunate offsides call on a late onside kick attempt for Arkansas State sealed their fate in a 21-19 loss to Northern Illinois in the 2023 Camellia Bowl on Saturday.

While the game’s audience saw Red Wolves head coach Butch Jones voice his displeasure with the call in the moment, Jones was well aware that his team’s loss was not the sum of one play.

“Football is a game of accumulation of plays,” Jones said postgame. “Not one play wins or loses the game for you. Every play has a flow and dictates different outcomes in the game.”

In particular, Jones noted his team’s special team’s miscues as a major contributing factor, despite two field goal makes from Dominic Zvada. The Red Wolves allowed Northern Illinois to score on a 32-yard touchdown run by Husky placekicker Kanon Woodill. Jones noted that particular play as “inexcusable.”

“We always talk about making special teams a factor. They were a non-factor today,” Jones said.

An interception and turnover on downs by the Arkansas State offense early on also helped momentum build for Northern Illinois. The Red Wolves managed three total points over three trips inside the red zone in the first half.

Jones also noted several instances defensively in the first half were the Red Wolves allowed the Huskies to convert third downs from third-eight or longer. In the time of possession battle, Northern Illinois finished with a 20-minute advantage.

In the second half, Arkansas State did get their feet under them enough to mount a comeback, resulting in the ultimate two-point score differential. However, it simply came too late. The Red Wolves’ first four possessions of the second half resulted in punts. Three of those were three-and-outs.

Despite the tough way for a season to end, Jones also noted his excitement for the future of the program thanks, in part, to the example the 2023 Arkansas State team set for the next one.

“I can’t say enough about the group of men that we have in our locker room. I love our players. I love where we’re going...In terms of the players coming back, what did they learn from this? I thought we showed some immaturity. I thought we didn’t quite know how to handle the circumstances of playing in a bowl game.”

“When you go to bowl season, everybody’s good. Everybody’s there for a reason. I thought we had really good weeks of preparation...As we move forward, we can’t just be a year older, we got to be a year better next year.”

Arkansas State are still looking for their first winning season under Davis.