Kirby Lee - USA Today

Final Look at USC

Final notes on Arkansas State at USC before moving on to Missouri

One game does not a season make.

And as we go into the Arkansas State Red Wolves’ second game, the long-awaited home opener vs. Missouri, you still have to wonder where this season is headed.

The 55-6 loss to the Trojans, ranked 8th in the nation at the time, hurts for a program that believes it is among the best in the Group of 5 conferences. From the outside it looks like a plain ole whopping.

And on the inside it feels like it, even though you can see some promise for the Red Wolves down the road.

The bright spots for the Red Wolves, according to the coaches, was the effort.

“Great effort,” said Red Wolves offensive coordinator Walt Bell. “In 12, 13, 14 years of grading loafs and MA (missed assignments) like we have, that is the least amount of loafs that we have ever had. Terms of collective effort, it is there.”

But there was more. The Red Wolves produced more than 400 yards against the Trojans, who were experienced and talented on defense. The worrisome part is there were four turnovers, the most of the Blake Anderson era, and just one touchdown.

The bottom line was A-State senior quarterback Fredi Knighten had the worst passing night of his career. A lot had to do with what USC had on defense. Defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen said the Trojans’ blitzed repeatedly and often clogged the sight lines of the 5-foot-10 ASU quarterback, who also made a couple of bad decisions that resulted in interceptions.

On the bright side the Red Wolves finished with more than 400 yards offense and USC was held to a 30 percent success rate on third down. That is winning football in most cases.

The Red Wolves also produced 5 sacks against a team that came in ranked No. 8 in the country and had an experienced offensive line. Freshman linebacker Tajhea Chambers had 2.5 in his A-State debut playing a position he had never played.

And there was Warren Wand, the 5-foot-5 freshman running back from Oklahoma, who encouraged all the A-State faithful with his ability.

Probably the most impressive point of the evening was the Red Wolves’ interior defensive line play. We all remember last year and how after being exposed by UL-Lafayette every team on the schedule started running the ball right at our gut. And most succeeded.

You can see enough bright spots in the game to be encouraged. You can also see things that leave you concerned. And while we did not learn a lot we this is a better gauge than thumping a SWAC team.

Hopefully, we learn a lot more on Saturday.