The one perk to playing in the penultimate bowl game of the season, the small one before the very big one, is that when you allow all the yards in the world, at least the FBS world is focused on the very big game ahead.
This season started with a (fake) bang that left our Fainting Goat seemingly dead on the ground, had key injuries to key players once the team entered its #FunBelt stretch and, as a result, A-State lost five matches... and ended up right at the same GoDaddy Bowl game that they always have played in.
It's a new era, as the "One and done" coaches seem to be no more, with Blake Anderson still (as of now) set to return to Jonesboro. And yet, the bowl game was the same.
Quarterback Fredi Knighten played about as well as he could have as a first-year starter, remaining among the FBS leaders for total offense throughout the season. Along with Michael Gordon, he formed one of the most explosive backfields in the country. Gordon, and receivers J.D. McKissic (when he was healthy), Tres Houston and Dijon Paschal helped, but the leader was Knighten. It's him who led the way most games for an offense that was great by air and excellent on the ground. (Red wolves cover more ground running, duh!)
It's also him who made the offense sputter at times, on third down and in the red zone. If the Red Wolves had such a paltry time of possession, it's because the team relied on the big play. Too often, Knighten and co., seemed to wonder why they should score in eight plays if only two sufficed-well, it's because those 64-yard touchdown catches are so hard to pull off, that's why.
But again, it's silly to complain about a group that scores almost 37 points per game, especially since the team needed every last one of those points. Because the team's defense was, erm, bad.
The problems for head coach Blake Anderson's squad mostly happened on the defensive side of the ball. What do red wolves do? They hunt. They see a prey and go after it, relentlessly and goading it into a mistake, until said prey makes a poor decision. And when it does, it's over.
When the thing works, the result is a thing of beauty. (Just ask the Idaho Vandals.) Chris Stone, Xavier Woodson and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones rush the passer into the kind of throw that Andrew Tryon, Artez Brown and Sterling Young feast on.
When opponents wise up and resort to strictly running the ball, well, the result looks a whole lot like what Louisiana's Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris, Texas State's Robert Lowe and Idaho's Kareem Hunt did-the four gentlemen averaged almost 222 yards against the A-State defense.
We all like to think that kicking a ball through two uprights is easy but time and time again, kickers from G5 teams have proven to us that it is anything but easy. Either that, or all these guys suck-it's probably the former, though you might say that they actually suck and I'm just saying otherwise because I'm Canadian and Canadians are nice people.
I guess what I am saying is that A-State kickers Luke Ferguson and Logan Spry were fairly bad... very much so... to the extent that they only made 11 of 18 field goal tries.
But at least Mr. Spry is a stud!
OVERALL GRADE: B
The preseason expectations, which had A-State competing for the Sun Belt Conference title, turned out to be shortsighted but the logic was sound. The Red Wolves had a slew of returning seniors hoping to make their final howl count and... it didn't quite work out. That's okay, because that senior class was still perhaps the school's best ever.
A salute to our favorite sr.class ever @RedWolvesFBall. Five coaches, 5 season, 3 league titles and a 35-16 record. You are the foundation!— AStateNation (@AStateNation) 29 Novembre 2014
Giant Trooper Taylor head! pic.twitter.com/7GMYfpJxYn— Adam Crisler (@adamcrisler) 29 Novembre 2014
I give the team a B for this season-the Red Wolves had an offense good enough to make a bowl game, but a defense that wasn't good enough to win it.
How would you grade A-State's season? Do you agree with my grade of B or USA Today's C?