A couple of weeks back, Appalachian State handily defeated Georgia Southern on national television. The running national commentary was that game would decide the Sun Belt Conference championship. The Mountaineers even started to receive some votes in the polls. Somehow, what was lost in the glow of Appalachian State was an Arkansas State team who was undefeated as well in the conference. Somehow people forgot the Red Wolves were coming to Boone, North Carolina for the real game that might decide the Sun Belt Conference. Las Vegas even made the Mountaineers 10-point favorites. A lot of people got this game wrong as the Red Wolves ran over Appalachian State in the second half in route to a 40-27 victory.
Many fans and media types will say this was a statement victory, and no doubt it was. However, if you talk to the coaches and the players in that locker room, as much as they celebrated their win, they’ll tell you that they turned their focus quickly to the next game. They will tell you that part of controlling your own destiny is recognizing that you have to take care of business every week. There are three more chances to take care of business if they want the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
AStateNation is happy to bring you this week’s edition of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson” as he discusses the big win in Boone and looks ahead to preparing for the next game.
The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson
1st Quarter: You mentioned before that you were really nervous before the Georgia State game, but that you were calm and confident before the game against Appalachian State. Why were you feeling better about this game? – “I just felt like we were really well prepared. I thought our staff put together a great game plan that our guys could execute well. Even with the short week our guys had more mental reps than any week of this season. We took care of their bodies and worked their minds more in film and in walk throughs. And really, I just sensed a good feeling around our guys. I felt like they were going to show up ready to play and they did.”
2nd Quarter: The Mountaineer defense was holding teams to 12 points a game and less than 150yds rushing per game. You scored 40 points and rushed for over 300 yards. Was that a scheme win or was it your guys just beating the guy in front of them? – “Well, again, I thought we had a strong game plan that would be tough for their personnel to defend. I think Fredi’s ability to be effective gave them something they really hadn’t had to defend yet this season. And then honestly, as the 2nd quarter started to progress and into the 3rd quarter, you could really see fatigue start to set in with their defense. Our tempo and our physicality started to take hold and they started to struggle. You saw a lot of hands on hips on their side of the line of scrimmage. We got better running the ball as we began to beat them with our conditioning and our physical presence. That was the difference in this game. We knew the team that ran the ball best would win this game, and that team was us.”
3rd Quarter: What did you say to the team at halftime? –“Honestly, I was pretty calm and reserved. I brought them together and told them we had them right where we wanted them. They played as good as they can play in the first quarter and we were now starting to take control of the game. We had the momentum and we were going to go out in the third quarter and they were going to get tired and we were going to get stronger. We were going to put the hammer down defensively and run the ball over them offensively and there was nothing they were going to be able to do about it. So let's go do it. And that's exactly what our team did.”
4th Quarter: You're in the driver’s seat now in terms of the conference title race. What will be the hardest thing for you to do to get this team to that goal over the next few weeks? – “The hardest part will be maintaining the mental and emotional edge each and every week. You see teams everywhere across the country get up for one big game and then falter the next week. We can't do that. We’re going to go into environments that won't be like what we saw in Boone or our place with 20-25,000 fans in the stadium. Their records are different. It's a different challenge to get your energy and focus right for these games. That's our challenge is to not play into the circumstances. We have to play the opponent that week and bring our best intensity and play our best against these teams. That's what we’ll focus on every day.”
OT: Something that has been very evident over the last few weeks and particularly in this last game, is the fact that your team is not making the mental errors in terms of penalties and after the whistle type activities. What changed with your guys? – “We have kept studying this every week and talking about it and learning how to avoid it. I think there's an accountability to each other that has grown this season. When it's up on the big screen in front the whole team, you don't want to be that guy hurting the team. And there was discipline involved, but I think it's guys not wanting to let the team. They realized how it would hurt us if it continued. In all honestly, the change happened when the guys took ownership of it and started to police it themselves. They collectively pulled together to change how we operated. It started when we went into a highly emotional Louisiana-Lafayette game and were able to be very physical and play on the edge, but we were able to do it clean and with class. That's been our blueprint going forward and they're getting better every week at it.”