After turning in a very passionate and outstanding defensive performance against nationally ranked Virginia Tech, expectations were very high for Dave Wommacks defensive unit against Central Arkansas Saturday night.
The Red Wolves defense came out flat in the first half of play, giving up 84 yards in rushing and 106 yards in passing in only two quarters against a lessor opponent in the Bears.
The lack of defensive production had Red Wolves Head Coach Hugh Freeze visibly concerned at halftime.
"We didn't play with the passion or the effort we did last week against Virginia Tech," Freeze said. "I gathered the defense as a group. I challenged them personally and individually. I also challenged our coaching staff, I told them to get it fixed."
You could definitely could see a change in the defensive unit after the intermission.
Two consecutive 3 downs and out, allowed Arkansas State to build a quick 29-10 lead.
Overall the numbers showed how much improvement was made.
Wommack's crew only allowed 13 net yards rushing in the second half, gave up only 119 passing, which 53 of those yards came on one play.
"We still have to work on not giving up the big play," Freeze said. "We held their big play guys pretty much in check until later in the game."
Jessie Grandy, a former Ole Miss player, scored on a 53 yard pass play with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Give Central Arkansas credit, the Bears came out with an impressive offensive game plan, allowing new starting quarterback Wynrick Smothers to have an impressive game for his first official start.
Smothers finished the game completing 16 passes out of 31 attempts for 224 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
The talented quarterback also rushed 10 times for 52 yards, giving the Red Wolves defense fits in the first half.
Arkansas State's Sterling Young scored the Red Wolves final touchdown of the game on a 31 yard interception.
Young smiled when asked what Freeze said to the defense at half.
"He challenged us to play a lot better," Young said. It was apparent that Young was going to say exactly what Freeze told the group.
The Red Wolves are definitely playing better defense this season, with the exception of giving up the big play.
If Saturday night scores in the Sun Belt Conference are any indication, playing good defense and not giving up the big play will be crucial for the Red Wolves over the next eight weeks.