When Hugh Freeze was hired by Arkansas State University as its Head Football Coach a little less than a year ago, the charismatic young fiery coach said one of his goals is to bring a winning team to Jonesboro.
No other Arkansas State team had won more than six games since the 1980's and while the fan based loved hearing that Freeze was going to bring a winner to Arkansas State, no one had any clue or expectation it would happen so soon.
Freeze served as ASU's Offensive Coordinator last season, and while the Red Wolves offense showed great improvement and set several ASU records, a 4-8 record led the dismissal of nine year Head Coach Steve Roberts.
Arkansas State Athletic Director Dr. Dean Lee wasted no time and made a great hire, naming Freeze to the job.
Freeze said from day one taking the job that it was his intentions on changing the culture with his football team, to help his team believe in themselves, for them to expect more of themselves both on and off the football field.
Freeze kept five coaches from the previous staff and went out and and brought in four new ones. Three of the four worked with Freeze in previous years and perhaps the best hire of them all was veteran defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
Freeze called the Wommack hire a homerun for him and his team. No one could argue this point whatsoever.
Wommack took one of the worst defenses in the country from a year ago to a top 20 defense this year.
Freeze was an instant hit with the Red Wolves players. His smile and spirit is contagious and his quiet confidence and swagger is something that his team realized and took as their own as this season progressed.
Freeze is the type of coach that feels that he can take any other coaches team and beat you with them.
He pretty much did that this season at Arkansas State.
He took a 4-8 club and turned them into a 9-2 team with one game to go. He rebuilt the team's confidence, their attitudes and yes he gave them some of his swagger.
"You want a team to have confidence in themselves," Freeze said earlier this year. "I like them to believe in themselves, a little swagger is a good thing, you can't get over confident and cocky."
Freeze said from Day 1 he wanted to change the mindset of his players first and then change the mindset of everyone around his football team including the AStateNation Fan Base.
"We have a great core of fans that really loves this team," Freeze said this summer. "I feel a responsibility to bring them a great product. I want our fans to leave the stadium every Saturday "Giddy" with excitement."
During fall camp in August there were a couple of times that Freeze challenged his team to expect more out of themselves. Not to be satisfied with anything less than 150 percent personal effort.
Two things that are critically important to Freeze every practice, a championship attitude and a championship effort
"If we can get those two things you won't hear me complaining much," Freeze said. "If we do those two things we will be a good football team."
It was obvious that his new squad was a little uncertain about themselves against a Big Ten Illinois team in the opener. After the game, Freeze didn't cut his team very much slack, he challenged them again to be a better team and for them to expect more out of themselves.
They came back with an impressive win against Memphis, but fans were still uncertain how good this Red Wolf team was after that contest.
Next up was a road trip to Virginia Tech and this is where this team became a good team with the chances of being a great team.
After a 26-7 loss to the Hokie's, Freeze witnessed a different team than he had two weeks prior at Illinois. ASU held the No. 1 running back in the country David Lewis to less than a 100 yards and less than five yards a carry, they also held Virginia Tech, a top ten school to just three points in the second half. The biggest improvement of this team came after the defeat in the locker room.
"We really were hurt after the loss to Virginia Tech," Freeze said. "You could see it in their eyes and their emotions. There were a lot of tears in the locker room. You could tell that they weren't satisfied just being in the game, that they wanted much more out of themselves and this season. I told them that hurting was a good thing, it mean't they expected more out of themselves."
After the Virginia Tech game, Freeze and his team hasn't lost another game since. They are currently on an eight game winning streak.
That streak includes claiming at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship this past Saturday at Middle Tennessee 45-19.
Arkansas State has a perfect 7-0 league mark and has a one game lead over Western Kentucky, a team they defeated 26-22 in early October, giving Arkansas State the advantage if the two teams end up being tied in the standings.
The Red Wolves close out their regular season with a conference game against Troy, a win against the Trojans would give Arkansas State a perfect 8-0 Sun Belt record.
One thing is for sure, Freeze has taught this football team alot of things but one of the biggest changes this season is now this team knows how to win and they expect to win.
Freeze wanted to change the mindset?