So many things I want to say first, but discipline is required so first let's go over the Keys to the Game posted Tuesday.
- Get the defense off the field. Very nice turnaround here. USU had 15 possessions and eight ended with a punt and one with a turnover. That was an average of 60% of possessions ending without a TD or FG attempt. Coming in it was 75% ending with a TD or FG attempt.
- Get first downs. The Red Wolves had 16 first downs, the highest total of the season but the 2 of 12 on third down conversions was disappointing.
- Create momentum. AState made a number of big plays on defense and the offense seemed to find its way under Justice Hansen.
- Bring penalties back down. A complete, abject and embarrassing failure. The Red Wolves were flagged 18 times, more than the first two games combined.
The game was really two completely different games. The first half USU led 24-0, had out-gained AState by 59 yards. The Red Wolves had been penalized 12 times and turned the ball over twice. The second half, AState was much more effective. The Red Wolves out-gained USU by 23 yards on the game and trailed the Aggies by 7 with USU starting on its own 9 with 7:22 left and having held USU to 2 yards on the prior three drives combined. The Aggies launched a 13 play 91 yard TD drive consuming 6:53 and setting the final score.
It was encouraging to see the offense finally engage with Justice Hansen and Blake Mack has been AState's most dependable receiver.
Money Hunter put forth a big game as leading tackler along with Chris Odom who produced two of the three sacks. Justin Clifton had 8 tackles and two pass break ups on which was nearly an interception with a chance to go the distance.
The bottom line?
Be encouraged that the defense had a good evening and the offense seems to finally be coming together but don't get too comfortable just yet. Seven penalties in the first quarter, 12 for the first half and six more in the second half is a critical problem. The coaching staff is going to have to find some formula to bring the penalties under control.