The college football world has been hectic to say the least this week. USC fired its head coach, Steve Sarkisian. The other USC had their Head Ball Coach resign midseason. Maryland fired its head coach before the weekend ended and Florida’s starting quarterback was suspended by the NCAA for a full year after testing positive for PEDs. Oh, and Tuesday night football started this week on ESPN2 as Arkansas State traveled to South Alabama for a Sun Belt showdown on national TV.
The Red Wolves’ game was the only football game in town Tuesday night and the national viewing audience was definitely treated to a show. After an inconsistent few quarters, the Red Wolves’ exploded for 29 points in under six minutes to comeback from an 11-point 4th-quarter deficit and beat the Jaguars on the road, 49-31.
With all of that excitement fresh in our minds, AStateNation brings you the 3rd installment of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson” as he discusses what he thought about the game and picking up a key conference win on the road.
THE 5th QUARTER with COACH ANDERSON – Part 3:
1st Quarter: How important was the “way” your team won last night as you look ahead to more tough opponents? – Finding a way to get a win, especially on the road is always important. The way they won it says a lot of who they are and what they’re capable of doing. They’re capable and willing to continue to fight and play for 60 minutes through any period of adversity. They believe in what we’re doing and how we do things and that it’s worth fighting for in any situation. They continue to do what we ask of them and they put themselves in position to make plays late in the game. They didn’t quit under circumstances where some teams might quit after dealing with so much frustration during the course of the game. Our guys didn’t quit and that’s what helped create one of the strangest 4th quarters I’ve ever been a part of. It was great to see them rally around each other and have so many guys contribute to that comeback. All of that will help us and we will need it moving forward.”
2nd Quarter: What was going through your mind heading into the 4th quarter when the game looked to be slipping away from you guys? – “I was asking myself, ‘Are these guys going to respond? Will they keep fighting and pick each other up?’ We’re still getting to know a lot of these guys in terms of how they will react with bigger roles on the field and in pressure situations. I thought the big interception by Cody Brown was the spark we needed. He’s a great example of being one of the new guys we’re still getting to know in terms of how he would react in this type of situation and he came up big for us. I just kept being positive for them and encouraging them to keep fighting. What was great for me to see is that they were already being positive and keeping each other motivated and ready to keep working for the win. That’s the culture we want here where everybody is bought into the team and being accountable to each other in good times and bad times. It’s fighting through those bad times together that really show you what kind of locker room you have.”
3rd Quarter: Can you see a difference in the confidence being shown by the defense this year in comparison to last year’s squad? – “Oh absolutely. It’s not even close to being the same group and that confidence is contagious. It’s getting better and stronger every week, every game, even every play. Frankly, it was better when we left the stadium down there than it was when walked onto the field. It’s growing and more guys are making plays, big plays, for this team. They’re having fun playing and they’re responding to Coach Cauthen and his defensive staff. They’ve continued to respond to adversity and learn from it. You’re not seeing a lot of mistakes repeating themselves. For example, we didn’t get any of those costly mental penalties on defense that would give the other team a free pass after we just stopped them. The opportunity was there based on the manner in which the game was being played, but we walked away from those situations instead of making a mistake. I don’t know if there is one leader, but there is a solid group of guys that are the heartbeat of that defense and it’s fun to watch right now.”
4th Quarter: What does the offense need to do in the short term to get back into a groove and play to its potential? – “We need to communicate better up front. We made some changes up front coming into this game and there was some confusion early in the game. However, that got better as the game went on and that needs to continue moving forward. We had to make adjustments because they came out and were doing things that they didn’t show on film so we had to react as the game went on and adjust. Overall we need to just settle down and do what we do well. That means protect up front and throw and catch better too. I can’t remember having that many balls batted down. The guys were open and the film showed that Fredi was finding them and making the right reads, but the ball was getting batted down. Fredi was a little rusty and inconsistent, but he got better as the game went on. We can’t get into the score zone and come away with nothing. That area has to be remedied immediately. We can’t put the ball on the ground either in those situations. We will get back to the drawing board and fix the couple of things you need to fix and then put your game plan together. Of course, it all comes down to execution of the game plan.”
OT: What was the intent of the fashion statement for this game? – “(Laughing)Well the intent was to come out in the white polo I was wearing in the pregame. But before we came out for the game they were all hyped up about wearing black and starting asking, ‘Hey Coach, how come you’re not in all black too?’ We hadn’t told them about going all black beforehand so there was a lot of excitement in that locker room. I told them I was wearing my coaches’ shirt. Next thing I know they produced a black t-shirt and told me I needed to black it out with them. I changed shirts right then and there. When you’re on the road you need any spark you can get. It made them smile and get hyped up and that’s what matters to me. I told them if that’s what they want then I’m game for it. You have to buckle down and stick together on the road. I’ll do whatever this team needs to generate excitement for them. We’re all in this thing together.”