The performance of the Arkansas State defense in its 30-21 victory over Lafayette was nothing short of phenomenal, which is exactly the word head coach Hugh Freeze used to describe it. Four interceptions, a forced fumble and four sacks against the top scoring offense in the Sun Belt certainly proved the Red Wolves to have risen to the occasion.
"You knew they were gonna make plays before the game was over, you can watch every single game, and you know they put 30 up on Oklahoma State, and they're leading the league in scoring coming into tonight," Freeze said. "But I just thought (Wommack's) plan was wonderful and thought he did a really nice job of stopping the run, number one, and not giving up too many big plays."
A fumble recovery by defensive end Justin Robertson on the Lafayette 14 yard line gave the Red Wolves early momentum to score their first touchdown early in the first quarter. The defensive momentum had its second burst toward the end of the first quarter, when senior DB Kelcie McCray intercepted the ball with three minutes left in the quarter, ending a ULL drive on first down.
Arkansas State's second interception came early in the second quarter from Darron Edwards, and the third from Darryl Feemster, who returned it for 48 yards. Feemster's interception gave the Red Wolves possession on the ULL 4 yard line, the drive resulting in a FG.
The last of the four interceptions was a much needed momentum-changer by senior linebacker DeMario Davis. With Arkansas State trailing by one point, Davis' interception was returned for 27 yards to the ASU 48 yard line. The next drive ended in a Red Wolf touchdown, bringing the score to 27-21.
"I play with a great cast of DBs. They're gonna go up and make plays on the ball, and that's the first thing Coach Wommack told them, was, DB's this is your game, you gotta go up and make plays, and we saw that," Davis said.
Freeze said all week long Arkansas State's defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was challenging the secondary, talking about ULL's receivers and what they've done, that ULL will throw it down field and that they would have to rise to the occasion.
"They challenged them all week and I think they responded very well," Freeze said.
The secondary wasn't the only part of the Red Wolf defense that showed up and rose to the occasion, though. Senior defensive end Brandon Joiner tied a school record with four sacks, bringing him to his 10th sack of the season. Blaine Gautier will likely be shaken up for the next few days after the beating he received from Joiner and the rest of the Arkansas State defense.
"Throughout the season he hasn't really gotten hit like that, playing a defense like ours, but with Coach Wommack's defensive scheme we're blitzing left and right, coming at different angles, and we just are a relentless team," Joiner said.
Joiner and Davis both commented more than once on the team's effort as a whole, rather than their individual accomplishments of the night.
"Guys just came out and played their hearts out for one another. There's a lot of love on this team. People get tired but we play the next play for each other," Joiner said.
The old saying that defense wins games rang true for the Red Wolves in their victory over Lafayette, bringing them their seventh straight win and keeping an undefeated home and conference streak alive.
"I thought they played phenomenal," Freeze said. "That team is a very talented offensive football team, and the plan that Dave had, and the way these kids played I thought was just phenomenal."
*Brandon Joiner: 8 total tackles, 4 sacks
*Demario Davis: 7 total sacks, 1 interception, 2 hits on QB
*Team totals: 71 total tackles, 8 tackles for loss (34 yards), 4 interceptions returned for a total of 79 yards.