Arkansas State wrapped up it's final day of preparation for Virginia Tech Thursday afternoon in what Coach Freeze said was a good, high energy practice. Coming off a clearly dominant victory over Memphis at home, the Red Wolves have had to up the tempo this week as they prepare to travel to Blacksburg.
Faster Pace, Winning Attitudes
Freeze said it will take tremendous effort and focus to be successful this weekend, and that he believes the Red Wolves have the talent to make the big plays they'll need — it's just a matter of them believing they do.
"It's gonna take enormous toughness and focus, and somebody's gonna have to make plays," Freeze said. "When you go in there and play a defense like this, somebody has got to win a one-on-one, and I do think we have kids that are capable of doing that buy they've got to do it."
Freeze said the biggest difference to prepare for between Memphis and Virginia Tech was, "Speed, speed, and more speed."
"They just kill you with their speed. They're very talented, but when you add to it that all of them can run, even when they make mistakes, which they don't make too many, they can recover quickly because they have so much speed," Freeze said.
As any sport is just as much mental as physical, Freeze and the Arkansas State coaching staff have also been working to keep their team focused and with winning attitudes in order to keep moving forward.
"We've been working on us. Making sure our attitude stays the one that keeps us going forward, moving, and trying to get better," Freeze said. "I told them after the game Saturday it was a great win, a great effort, but it's just one win. We won our first game last year too."
Most of the starters for the Red Wolves got to rest for almost the entire second half in last week's game against Memphis, so fatigue shouldn't be much to worry about for Arkansas State.
"I think that could be beneficial to us, certainly. I wish we were totally healthy. We've got a few people with nicks and bruises," Freeze said. "But certainly they rested a quarter and a half, so we should not go into this weekend physically tired."
Freeze said there are a few players banged up and sore from last week, but the only player that will for sure not be playing this week is Taushaun Holmes. Holmes had surgery on his wrist this week. Freeze said he won't play on Saturday, but "he could be back."
Andre Smith is "a little tender," Freeze said, but took some snaps in Thursday's practice and will be fine on Saturday.
Raising the Bar
Going up against a defense like Virginia Tech's, special teams could be crucial in helping put points on the board for the Red Wolves. Freeze said he was pleased with the effort and performance of the special teams this week, and that they've "spent a lot of time on them."
"We know that [special teams] can change a game in a heartbeat, and I'm pleased with the plan that our special teams guys have in place," Freeze said.
As far as picking up the tempo for a much greater caliber opponent, Freeze said the Red Wolves are prepared for what's ahead of them.
"They understand the difference right now, we're talking about one of the premiere teams in the country, at their place, which is a very difficult place to play and to win," Freeze said. "So I think our kids understand that, we do have a mature group, you just hope they believe that they really can go up there and compete and make a statement."