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This week the Red Wolves traveled down the highway to take on the Auburn Tigers in their house. They were coming off a tough loss to Toledo and encountered a week full of obstacles as numerous players were hospitalized with a virus. None of that mattered though because they had a formidable opponent waiting for them and when the ball was kicked off, they had to be ready to fight. If you watched the game, it was clear the Red Wolves came ready to fight. Unfortunately, the mismatches in many areas became too hard to overcome and the team traveled back to Jonesboro on the wrong side of the score. Head Coach Blake Anderson spoke with AStateNation for the 2nd edition of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson.”
The 5th Quarter – Auburn
1st Quarter: How would you describe the difference between the way the team looked this week and the way they looked last week? – “I think we came out ready to play with an energy level and an effort level that was through the roof. I was proud of how they rebounded mentally from last week to be focused and ready to go this week. We made significant improvements as a unit on offense. Our rhythm was better and we were looking more like we want to be. On defense we knew coming in we had some big match-up issues that would be hard to overcome. We still made too many mistakes to put ourselves in a position to do better against those match-up problems. When you do that then the opponent’s advantage gets magnified a bit. I did like the fact that they had to make two miraculous plays to score their first 14 points. Neither one of those I would call routine by any means. So we saw some improvements over last week and we expect to see more improvements this week.
2nd Quarter: What type of work or adjustments did you put in this past week to allow Chad to look more comfortable this week at the QB position? – “I think every day he gets snaps with us makes him more comfortable in our system. You have to remember he’s only been on the field with us for a month. So every day is growth for him. Every rep is growth for him. Also, when he’s not chasing snaps around on the ground, things tend to go better on those plays. We cleaned that up this week and that helped him get into the plays quicker. The line protected him more and that always helps the QB get into his rhythm. And then we really focused in on a package that he could work well with in this game and I think he did. Completed a bunch of passes against a great defense, and without a few drops he would have had more. He’s not putting the ball in harm’s way either which will bode well for us if he continues that trend. I thought he settled down more this week. He’s a high-energy guy anyway so it’s important we channel that energy the right way. He’s got great playing experience, now he’s building up his experience with us and within this system.”
3rd Quarter: In your eyes, did the defense look better this week on the field than they did in the opening game? – “It’s hard to compare the two games due to the explosive players we played against this week and the sheer size of their unit. Throw in the miraculous plays I mentioned before, I mean those were Top 10 plays that they had to make to score those early points. I think we did do a better job physically of holding point well and playing more aggressive football. We tackled better and had less missed tackles, but less doesn’t cut it. We have to continue to get better there and take advantage of those times we make the right call and the right read. Now there were points scored in the end I don’t think we should have allowed but I do think our unit made improvements over week one. Am I anywhere close to satisfied with just improving? No, but it will be important to show more improvement this week and really in every game we play moving forward. So as whole, we got better in some areas, and we know we have to get back to work in other areas in just knowing where we are in our alignments and coverages.”
4th Quarter: Looking ahead, what are you doing this week to get your players’ heads in the mindset you need them to be heading into the Utah State game? – “I don’t want guys to panic. I want them to understand and know that even if we played great games the last two weeks, we could still be sitting here at 0-2. Toledo is a big, well-built team that’s been built over the last 10 years. And Auburn is a heavyweight in football. We played two great football teams that gave us match-up issues in different areas. So it’s not time to panic, but more a time to heighten a sense of awareness around the details that can help us win this week. We know we have the talent and we know we’re still getting that talent to gel together. We showed improvements last week and there are more details to iron out this week. That will help as some of the physical match-ups start to even out some and in some cases turn in our favor moving forward. We have not had that luxury the first two weeks. But when we get those, we can’t lose those opportunities to turn them in our favor by not doing the little things right.”
Overtime: When you and the coaches met on Sunday, what areas are you guys focusing on this week as a staff? – “We need to find out what this group is good at and put them in those situations more. We can’t worry about what last year’s group looked like or the year before. We have to figure out what these guys do well and push them towards that and get them to do what they do well. Give them answers and hold them accountable for those answers. Can’t assume anything we did well in the past will work in every situation with this group. We know we can’t continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. We’re excited about the fact that our athletic ability is going to start giving us more chances moving forward so we need to utilize those talents and exploit them on game day. This is a new team and our job is to find the things they do best and give them more opportunities to be successful in those areas.”
AStateNation would like to thank Coach Anderson for his time. Look for the next edition of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson” next week after the Utah State game.
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