Hugh Freeze has been focused one thing since taking over as the Head Coach at Arkansas State.
That one thing, changing the culture and mindset of his football team, has been his primary focus since spring football.
"Anytime you have a team that has had back to back losing seasons and use to a 6-6 season being a success in their eyes. you have to convince them to expect more of themselves." Freeze said a few dozen times this summer and fall. "I wasn't sure how the team was going to react to how I have treated them this past week, they definitely got a little tough love from me since the Illinois game."
That tough love is part of the challenge of changing the mindset of this team. Freeze feels that most of his team is starting to buy-in to him and his coaching staff.
"I love their efforts and their attitudes," Freeze said. "They are working hard, instead of expecting to lose a game, they are beginning to expect to find a way to win it."
Freeze has said several times this summer and during fall camp that he has high expectations for his team and for this fan base.
"We have such a great fan base that is so hungry for a winner," Freeze said. "It actually burdens me a little. I know how bad this community want to back a winner, it's my job to convince this team that they can be very special and win a lot of games if they will only believe in themselves and their talents as a team."
Freeze spent this past week, preparing his team for a big game against a big rival. Whatever Freeze has been selling these players, it's apparently working. Arkansas Stte opened their home opener in impressive fashion, destroying a Memphis team 47-3.
"It's great to get our first win," Freeze said Saturday night. "I can't express enough how important this team is to me. They responded well to what we were demanding of them this week. I was a little nervous, I wasn't absolutely sure how they would respond."
Freeze had several goals going into his first season as the Head Coach of the Red Wolves.
"I want to deliver a product on the field of play that our fans can be proud of," Freeze said. "I want every Arkansas State University fan to leave our stadium, filled with excitement and pleased on how we played and represented them and this great university."
Freeze attempted to down play the importance of a big victory over nearby Memphis.
"I love how we played tonight, we made a few mistakes and we turned the ball over too much, but there are so many positives we can take from this game," Freeze said. "We still have a lot of things to work on, we have a big challenge ahead of us this week when we travel to Blacksburg to take on nationally ranked Virginia Tech."
Freeze even cracked a few smiles while talking about his team's impressive performance against a very unimpressive Memphis squad.
"We have been telling our team all week that if they played up to their potential we would be ok," Freeze said. "I wasn't worried about playing Memphis, I was worried about correcting our own mistakes. I knew if we did this the results would be in favor of our team."
No one could write a better ending to Freeze's first game as the Red Wolves Head Coach.
"We are going to enjoy this tonight and until the morning," Freeze said. "This is just one game. We have a big test next week against a very good Virginia Tech team at their place next Saturday. We can't put too much emphasis in just one ballgame, we have at least 10 more to play."
No one expected Arkansas State to play such a good game against Memphis except one group of young men.
"I have been telling them all week that if we didn't believe in ourselves and each other no one else will," Freeze said. "All of our coaches and our team believed in what we could accomplish. It showed that they had confidence in themselves, we are headed in the right direction."
It's obvious that Arkansas State is in good hands with Freeze being the Red Wolves Head Coach. He has accomplished more in six months than Larry Porter at Memphis has in two years.
Freeze is just worried about himself and his team. Saturday night's victory was the biggest margin of points for an ASU win over Memphis since 1915's game that witnessed ASU winning by a score of 47-3.