Arkansas State became bowl eligible with its win over North Texas this past weekend, but the Red Wolf football players and coaching staff will be quick to point out that they are playing for much more than six wins.
After going undefeated in conference play in 2011, the majority of this team experienced the sweet taste of success. It appears that it has made this group of seniors even hungrier and with higher expectations for this fall.
"These guys are playing for each other," ASU Defensive Coordinator John Thompson told the media after practice this week. "What a great group of guys we have. These seniors and the rest of our guys want to make sure to experience that same level of success they did last it and that's winning a conference championship."
Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold agrees with Thompson that this team still has some unfinished business.
"It's definitely nice to become bowl eligible," Herrold said. "That's just one of our goals completed, we have several others, including winning another conference championship."
Last year's 10-2 record has elevated team and fan expectations, something that these players and coaches embrace.
"We got a taste of success last year, we know what it takes," Senior Quarterback Ryan Aplin said. "Knowing that we control our own destiny, helps fuel the fire a little extra. You aren't sitting around on a Saturday night hoping for some help from another team. It's all on us, that's something you want as a player, it's a little bit of pressure but at the same time it's college football. It's something you dream about, about coming out on top and being conference champions."
One reason for the Red Wolves recent offensive success is the fact that ASU has protected the football. ASU Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashee agrees.
"The thing that stands out to me is that its been two games in a row and three out of our last four we haven't turned the ball over," Lashlee said. "I'm really proud of our offensive line and our running backs on protecting the quarterback. You can see what he can do when he has time."
Aplin has had two of his best games against Louisiana Lafayette and North Texas in back to back weeks.
"My offensive line is doing a fantastic job week in and week out," Aplin said. "I think I got hit once or twice at North Texas. When you give our talented receivers time to get open our offense can be dangerous. When the ball is in their hands they are going to make big plays, we have a team of playmakers.
With three games remaining on their schedule, both players and coaches want to finish out strong.
No one has a stronger opinion on how he wants to close out his last three games in his career at Arkansas State than QB 1 Ryan Aplin.
"This is what we waited for our whole life is our senior season," Aplin explained. "We want to make the best of it, it's something that we will cherish forever. We have three games left, we are going to go out there and give them hell and do our best to win another conference championship."