Across the college football landscape most teams began conference play this week. This is the part of the season where familiarity between teams rise, and with that comes a rise in intensity as both teams know every game counts if they want to have a chance to win the conference championship. The Arkansas State Red Wolves have sights on winning the Sun Belt Conference this season and they got off to the right start by defeating the Idaho Vandals, 49-35. The Red Wolves controlled the action in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates as Arkansas State primarily ran the ball in the second half when the game was well in hand.
AStateNation brings you the second installment of “The 5thQuarter with Coach Anderson” this week to discuss his insights on the win over Idaho.
THE 5th QUARTER with COACH ANDERSON – Part 2:
1st Quarter:?This game was the start of Sun Belt Conference? play for your team. With that in mind, do you think the level of intensity was higher and maybe even a little bit chippy at times? – “I think that’s how conference games are in general whether it’s against a rival or not. There is so much on the line every week that I just think it becomes really competitive every time you step on the field against a conference foe. We didn’t look at Idaho any less or any more than every other conference opponent. It was important to start out 1-0 in the conference and our guys knew that. I think that showed in how physical and how hard they played in this game. Our guys took control of the game and I was proud of the effort given in the game. Our effort level this season will determine our outcome.”
2nd Quarter:?From a strategy perspective, are you able to run the same playbook with James Tabary that you can run with Fredi Knighten at quarterback? – “For the most part we are able to run the same offense. There are some subtleties that are different between a QB that likes to throw from the pocket and one that likes to get out and run or throw on the run. You have to make some changes in the scheme with the run game because of the different skill sets. But I would say we are able to run about 90% of our playbook with both QBs, with the remaining 10% being what we may customize to each guy. The important part of that is that for the most part the changes don’t affect the other guys in the offense to a great degree so it allows us to be versatile, but it allows us to still be able to do what we do well.”
3rd Quarter:?There was an increased emphasis on the run game against Idaho and the team gained over 300 yards on the ground, with Michael Gordon running for a career high 221 yards. Was this the plan going into the game? – “We knew we needed to establish the run in this game and we liked our matchups up front against Idaho. We also wanted to get the run game going in order to take some pressure off of James. He had a rough outing the week before and we needed to create a more balanced attack in order to open up some things in the passing game, and it did. A lot of our explosive plays in the passing game came off of run looks that we were having success with early in the game. You win championships by running the ball and stopping the run. We also didn’t throw the ball much in the second half because of the large lead we had, the wind had picked up, and we wanted our guys to impose their will on how the game finished.”
4th Quarter:?Your team committed 15 penalties in this game. Last year your team struggled on defense with tackling and stopping the run. How much does this have to do with discipline and how much does the fact that your defense is more physical and aggressive play into the penalties? – “There are a couple of things that go into the penalties. First, we are playing with more physicality and getting more hats to the ball. We have emphasized all offseason to be more physical at the point of attack and being a hard-nosed defense, because we weren’t that team last year. That change in personality will bring more contact fouls and there’s a balance there because I want them on the edge and I don’t want them holding back. Second, we also play a fast-paced style of play which creates more plays in a game which creates more opportunities for penalties just from an odds perspective. There are going to be some bang-bang plays and judgment calls for the officials that are due to being aggressive and I don’t want to take that away from our style of play. What I want to dial back and improve upon are the retaliatory fouls or the frustration fouls. Those are the fouls that have to be avoided and we addressed those as a team tonight and reviewed them on film tonight with the team. There’s a difference between decision-based fouls and fouls that come from playing on the edge and we made that clear to them.”
OT:?In watching the game, you looked to be pretty animated from start to finish. Did you feel an increased sense of urgency in this game? – “Well, I’d like to think I carry that into every game, but yes, it was the first conference game and you want to get off to the right start. A 1-3 start isn’t what any of us wanted and it isn’t acceptable to us. So I really felt like this was a game that was a must win. We can’t afford to take any game lightly. Every game counts if you want to win the Sun Belt. We have to come out with a high energy level and that starts with me. I may have been a little too animated about some calls and I have to work on that myself. I’ve got my redheaded temper and I come by that honestly so I have to learn how to deal with that a little bit better. But when guys are making big plays I get fired up and animated.”
AStateNation would like to thank Coach Anderson for his time and we look forward to Part 3 in two weeks following the Red Wolves’ game against South Alabama.