The college football season brings about different storylines from week to week. There are rivalry weeks, homecoming weeks and big showdown weeks. This week was Halloween week, but for teams in the Sun Belt Conference Championship hunt, it also served as “don’t look past this game” week. Both the Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Appalachian State Mountaineers were heavy favorites against their opponents this past Saturday, and both needed to focus on those contests and avoid looking ahead to their nationally televised showdown in Boone, North Carolina this upcoming Thursday night.
The Mountaineers needed three overtime periods to defeat Troy. In Jonesboro, the Red Wolves took on a much-improved Georgia State team who likes to throw the ball around. The first half saw a lot of back and forth scoring before the teams headed into the locker room at halftime with Georgia State leading 27-20. Was a championship season slipping away? The answer was no as Head Coach Blake Anderson’s squad came out and used a total team effort to outscore the Panthers 28-7 in the second half in route to a 48-34 victory.
AStateNation sat down with Coach Anderson to discuss the win and is happy to bring you the next installment of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson.”
THE 5th QUARTER with COACH ANDERSON – Part 5:
1st Quarter: Xavier Woodson-Luster said the only adjustment your team needed to make at halftime was an attitude adjustment. He and the defense came out and shut out Georgia State in the second half. Was he right? – “We made some subtle strategic adjustments, but yes, we mainly put it right back in their laps at halftime. I was calm and just told them they had two choices, “You’re either going to go out and win this game, or you’re not. And the only guys that will determine the outcome are sitting in this locker room.” I told them we’re going to stick to the game plan and keep calling plays in that plan. It was up to them at that point to take those play calls and win the game. We couldn’t do it for them. They rallied together. Our leaders got it going and they came out and took the momentum back and won the game. We won this game because they decided to come out and play like they were capable of playing. So yes, I would say Xavier was correct in what he said about their attitudes.”
2nd Quarter: What was the key sequence of plays in the second half where you felt your team took back control of the game? – “I think the stop on 4th-and-1 was huge. And then to respond by going down and getting the score was a turning point. Nehemiah’s interception was another moment we needed and he came up big with that play. And then the punt return by Blaise was a big play at a big time as well. But the one that sticks out was the ability to stop them on fourth down. All of those plays were important but I really think the critical play was that fourth down stop when they were in position to get more points. That’s one of those plays that we’re making this season that we didn’t make last season and it’s a big part of why we’re winning. Guys are trusting each other to be in the right spots. When you trust your teammates you have more confidence to go out and make plays because you know your guys have your back. We’ve been winning in different ways this season. Each time we go out and win our guys’ confidence grows. Confidence in each other. Confidence in what we’re doing here and why we push them so hard with their conditioning. Just confidence in knowing that what they’ve bought into is worth it. This team will never give up.”
3rd Quarter: Fredi Knighten looked a lot like the Fredi Knighten that gave teams fits last season. He looked healthy now. What’s that mean to this offense moving forward? – “I’d like to think it builds some more confidence in himself. His completion percentage was better and he was throwing good passes all night. He ran with confidence and with some physicality. A great example was a run down near the goal line when he had to bury his head and push forward for the first down conversion. At any point during the game when you looked at him, he looked under control and very confident. He never got rattled. That’s what we’ve been waiting to see and he settled into his game. After being out of practice for over three weeks it can take time to get back in a good rhythm. I think he found that rhythm Saturday night. Moving forward that would mean good things for us because we’re a great offense when he gets his game going with great efficiency. Bottom line, when he’s playing with that confidence he’s a dangerous guy to try and defend.”
4th Quarter: This week brings a huge, nationally televised matchup with Appalachian State. With the conference championship on the line, how’s your stomach feeling right about now? – “It’s good man. I think I was more nervous about the Georgia State game than I was about any other game this year to this point. I look forward to the ones where the opponent looks just like you and you know it’s going to be a competitive slugfest. You’ve got respect for each other and you know what each other is bringing to the table. I’m a lot more at ease in those games than the ones where you’re heavily favored and you’re supposed to win easy. Those games tear my stomach up because you can put yourself in a bind rather quickly if your head isn’t right and you don’t play your best. I’ve got a lot of anticipation and fire in my belly for these types of games like the one coming up because this is why you do this job.”
Overtime: Crucial question for this week…are you a hand-out-the-candy type of guy or turn out the lights and act like nobody is home type of guy on Halloween? – “(laughing) Man, I’m a hand out the candy type of guy. There’s nothing better than seeing little dudes and little gals walking up in great costumes. I love kids and when they’re fired up about something it’s just great to see. I’m not opposed to scaring a few either in the process, but I really love to see the joy in their faces. I’ve never been a big dress up guy myself, aside from a great Trooper Taylor impression last season, but I love Halloween and taking the kids to haunted houses and everything that goes into it. It’s a great time.”