The first quarter of the college football season is complete. Most teams have completed their nonconference games and are prepping to now start their conference season. This is the time of year when coaches have to transition their teams into the grind of conference play where every game counts for programs that have eyes on winning the conference championship.
The Red Wolves are one of those teams. They’ve had a rough couple of weeks to start the season. However, they have played one of the hardest schedules to date in the nation. Even though it was tough, it should also help prepare them well to compete in the Sun Belt.
AStateNation is excited to introduce a new exclusive interview series with Head Coach Blake Anderson. The intent is to pull the curtain back a bit and get some insight from a head coach on Sunday evenings after the film has been reviewed from each game and the team has gone over what went well and what needs to be fixed heading into the next week.
So, without further ado, here is the first edition of “The 5th Quarter with Blake Anderson”:
THE 5TH QUARTER with BLAKE ANDERSON – Part 1:
1st Quarter: Following the game this past Saturday against Toledo, what did you tell the team in the locker room? – “You know what; I told them it’s been a tough four game stretch. We’ve had some ups and downs. We’ve played well at times and we’ve made mistakes at times. All of it prepares us for where we’re at today. The season really starts now. Nothing that happened before matters now. The Sun Belt Championship has always been our main goal. Of course, we learned some things about ourselves in these four games. If we didn’t learn anything then that would be a failure. If we learned something then we can fall forward and move on. Moving on means taking what we’ve learned and applying it in practice and in the games in order to play at a high level. Winning our conference is possible if this team plays at a high level in every game we play from this moment on starting this week with Idaho. We have a good team in that locker room that can do great things this year.”
2nd Quarter: When did you know that Fredi Knighten wasn’t going to be able to go against Toledo? – “I think we held out hope until later in the week, but we probably had a pretty good idea after practice on Wednesday. He just wasn’t progressing at the rate we wanted him to in order to play to all of his strengths. So we had to have our mind ready for either scenario but it was clear at that point that he probably wasn’t going to be capable of playing the way he normally does.”
3rd Quarter: After a game like that on the road, how do you handle the trip home with your staff; do you guys talk on the plane ride home or do you let them digest what happened and reconvene on Sunday with them to discuss everything? – “We bump into each other a bit on the way back and talk here and there a little bit. But I try to let everyone decompress first. I want them to go back and watch the tape first and make sure it’s exactly what you think you saw in the heat of the battle. Let your emotions calm down and really analyze what actually happened in the game. When you do things in the heat of the moment with emotions heavy on your sleeve there are times you make snap judgments that really aren’t correct. There was a lot more positive in the game than the score indicated. Just like when you win, there are more mistakes then you initially saw at first. So I think it serves everybody best to take a step back, get some sleep, even if it’s just a few hours, and then go back and address everything on Sunday and Monday.”
4th Quarter: When you reconvened with the team on Sunday, what was the vibe in the room, what was their mindset like? – “I was very encouraged by their attitudes and demeanor. We were very open and honest about where we’re at and where we’re headed. They responded in a positive manner and they believe in themselves and believe, like I do, that we’re a good football team with a lot of opportunity ahead of us. They know that we have things to correct that are in our control, which is great because it gives you the confidence to know it can be done and we can compete for the Sun Belt Championship. They are ready to work hard and that is always encouraging to see. This team isn’t close to being done. The season for them is just beginning.”
OT: What are the keys strategically moving forward for this team to accomplish their goals? – “I told them there are three main things that will immediately impact our ability to take control of games and win starting this week. First, we have to eliminate turnovers. We’ve turned the ball over in all three losses and we keep putting our defense in terrible situations or give up points on the turnover. Second, we have to eliminate penalties. We are way too penalized at this point. It’s a detail thing technique-wise, not an intent issue. We have to be smarter in some areas. We do play on the edge and we ask them to play on the edge. When you play on the edge with great effort and are aggressive you end up getting some of those penalties. But we just need to be smarter and improve there. Finally, we have to improve our attention to detail. We have to continue to work to perfect what we do and how we execute what we do. If we can do those three things there will be dramatic differences in our results in the future.”
AStateNation would like to thank Coach Anderson for his time and we look forward to Part 2 next week following the Red Wolves’ game against Idaho.