A lot of unknowns was more the norm than not for Hugh Freeze opening debut as the new head coach of the Red Wolves. A lot of those questions were answered after Saturday's season opener.
Freeze proved that his team will be a disciplined team, they were only penalized twice for eight yards, not bad for a first year Division 1 Head man.
His team played with passion.
The Red Wolves defense was much improved, especially if you take away the two big plays they gave up.
Any Head Football Coach at any level will tell you that you won't win on the road turning the ball over. Giving up two fumbles were two too many for the Red Wolves to overcome. Add an Aplin interception and three turnovers are hard to overcome in hostile territory.
This Arkansas State Football team is going to move the football with fast precision, they did this for the most part against a bigger tougher defensive unit than they will see very many times this season.
A young unproven offensive line was roughed up early, but regained their composure for the most part as the game progressed.
This team didn't quit, even with their proverbial backs against the wall after three mistakes, two in the second quarter and another on the opening possession of the third quarter. Freeze's team never dropped their heads, they continued to chip away at the home standing Illinois team.
Special teams made a difference for this football team, especially the 67 yard punt by Neely Sullivent that help set up the Red Wolve's defensive safety.
That punt by Sullivent was definitely a game changer for Arkansas State, giving the Red Wolves an opportunity to set the stage for a defensive battle.
Watching this team during fall camp, most realized this was a better defensive unit overall. One thing that plagued the Red Wolves defensive unit in fall camp also reared it's ugly head against Illinois Saturday-giving up the big play.
Two big pass receptions against the Red Wolf secondary buried Arkansas State's chances of pulling off an upset.
Freeze was disappointed with the fact they wasn't in the game at the end.
"Very disappointed we weren't in the game at the end," Freeze said. "Not taking anything away from Illinois, they are a good football team. We had chances to make plays early on in the game that would at least gave us a shot to be in it at the end. Dropped touchdown passes, fumbled another one going in."
"Didn't find away to compete to find what we were made up to be in it at the end of the game."
"Can't give up the deep ball, we have to get that fixed. If we don't give up the big play I think we will have a chance to win a lot of football games this season."