Emotion plays a major role in football. A team that is united and supportive can find ways to win. Anger, disappointment, frustration can tear a team apart.
Emotion played a major role in snapping AState’s five-game losing streak and extending the Red Wolves conference winning streak to ten games.
Five turnovers and then turning the ball over on downs with 3:06 left in the game gave AState the opportunity to tear apart as a team, instead the Red Wolves found a way to get the ball back, convert an improbable fourth and 16 and assemble a 70 yard game-winning drive that took 2:32 when AState had only 2:41 to work with.
The Red Wolves lost major style points (and likely a good number of points of the scoreboard) with five turnovers but there were plenty of style points earned despite that.
Hey the Red Wolves only led for nine seconds, but they were the right nine seconds.
AState took a different approach to the running game moving the point of attack outside. The change in the offensive scheme paid off. The Red Wolves posted 343 yards rushing after rushing for 323 in the first four games combined.
On the defensive side, Georgia Southern brought the nation’s #4 rushing attack to Centennial Bank Stadium. After giving up an average of 239 yards per game on the ground in the first four games, the Red Wolves held the Eagles to 162 yards on the ground.
Stopping the option requires disciplined, assignment football and the Red Wolves but for one critical mistake provided that. The Eagles gained 61 yards on one rushing play, that play produced 38% of Georgia Southern’s rushing offense. The Eagles managed only 66 yards rushing after the first quarter.
The emphasis on stopping the run led to an unusually productive passing attack for Georgia Southern, but like the ground game, one mistake was a big part of the Georgia Southern production. A short pass became a possible game changer when Georgia Southern turned a juke move into a chance to turn the play to the sideline and a 63-yard touchdown. That play was 31% of their total passing yards. Their 14 completions went to only four players.
AState used the passing game not only as a vertical attack but as an extension of the running game. Warren Wand’s five receptions represented nearly a third of the receiving. AState’s 16 passes were spread among 8 different players.
After amassing a humiliating 18 penalties at Utah State and another 8 against UCA, the Red Wolves ended up being flagged for only two penalties, though there were a couple of offsetting fouls that didn’t go in the books as well as a targeting foul that was overturned on review.
The biggest looming concern is ball protection. Five turnovers against Georgia Southern, puts AState at 12 on the season, all in the last three games.
The Red Wolves didn’t just save their conference winning streak (now 10 games) and break a five-game losing streak, they were competitive across the board and fixed most of the problems.
AState remains in control of its own destiny in the conference race. While the Cotton Bowl is off the table, the five bowls tied to the Sun Belt remain in play if the Red Wolves can build on the win.