In-depth visit with Coach Anderson about the Georgia Southern game.

Coach Anderson goes in-depth about the Georgia Southern game.

The Red Wolves were backed up in their own territory looking at 4th-and-16 late in the game against Georgia Southern.  Many fans had left already and many reporters probably started to write their final sentences about another Red Wolves’ loss.  But then it happened.  Justice Hansen scrambled for the first down and breathed new life into his team.  From that point on, he led the team down the field and threw the game-winning circus catch to Omar Bayless with 9 seconds left.  Then the defense fittingly ended the game with a sack and the celebration was on.  1-0 in the Sun Belt Conference and new life for this team moving forward as they play South Alabama next week.  Head Coach Blake Anderson sat down with AStateNation for this week’s “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson” to discuss his thoughts on the game and the focus heading into next this week’s game against South Alabama

THE 5th QUARTER – Georgia Southern

What was going through your mind after the fumbled punt return? – “I was sitting there thinking to myself, “Man, what else can go wrong for us right now?”  At that point I felt like our kids were playing extremely hard, but moments like that one kept knocking us back.  The defense was blowing them up and our offense was making big plays, but we just couldn’t get out of our own way.  Luckily, our players and coaches kept moving on to the next play and picking each other up.  Nobody was letting it stop our effort and our fight.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that at that moment I was just amazed at how many self-inflicted wounds we were experiencing in the game and thinking, “You have got to be kidding me.”  We played so much better and made some good adjustments offensively.  We may have found a bit of our identity on that side of the ball.  The defense was picking up more confidence and playing lights out.  The effort was off the charts.  Guys were trying to make plays.  Those extra yards as a running back.  Luper trying to make a big play when the guy outkicked his coverage a bit.  Again, not what we want, but our guys didn’t let it beat them in the end, and I guess that’s the silver lining in it.  The crazy thing about it is that we never stop talking about ball security and we work on it more here than anywhere I’ve been.  But it’s something we’ll work on correcting this week.”

Your offense put up over 500 yards on what was the top-ranked defense in the Sun Belt Conference.  What areas did you think you guys could exploit coming into this game to generate that production? – “We wanted to play to our strengths and their weaknesses.  They’re built to stop downhill running and we’d be wasting our time trying to run it right at them.  We wanted to get the advantage on the perimeter.  Then use play-action and RPOs to get our speed out in space.  We’ve showed flashes of that and just hadn’t put it all together.  Guys did better in this game with winning their individual battles.  I think Buster and Allen did a great job of adjusting their thinking a bit and focusing on what our guys are good at right now at this moment.  They put together a great plan that fit and put the run and the pass connection together well.  We wanted to put them in some formations that were tough for their personnel to defend and give an advantage to our playmakers.  At the end of the day, with the exception of the turnovers, we executed the game plan that would help us win this football game.” 

What did you mean when you said after the game that guys to had to figure out what this team could do well and swallow their pride a bit in creating the right game plan? – “Well, for example, Allen loves power and split-flow zone.  And I think if all things were perfect we could hang our hat on some of those concepts.  But it just didn’t fit who we were playing and it wasn’t fitting the personality of what o-line is right now.  He really evaluated the run game and looked at what we’ve done well in the past with these guys.  He looked at specifically what would be productive in this game for us to win.  Part of being a great coach is saying, “It doesn’t matter what I like.  It matters what we can do well.”  That’s what Allen and Buster both did.  Buster committed more to the RPOs when he’d prefer to get back there and toss it around more.  That just isn’t what fits Justice right now with his experience level and it doesn’t match the run game we have right now.  So I think they built a good game plan that put guys in position to put their  guys in conflict.  We had open grass for everybody and that was the product of a solid plan.  That’s what we need to do to move forward this season.”

Did you call the plays in this game? – “No.  I called a few down the stretch, and I was on the headset as usual the whole game.  Buster called 95% of what we did.  He bounced things off of me and Allen down the stretch as the game went on.  That other 5% is when we collaborated on some calls based on the time and situation in the game in the 4th quarter.  He always asks my opinion and what I want to do in certain situations.  But that’s what we do every game.  That’s what I did with Walt.  That’s what my head coaches did when I was the OC.  I have a lot of years under my belt in this system and I’m going to draw on that experience to help in every game.  When you’ve seen certain situations before you can recall what worked and what didn’t.  Buster knows that and he’s great at getting my input.  You’re always talking with each other about what we see and what might work as the game goes on.  He had a great plan for us and we executed the majority of that plan well.  Then, as a staff, you make the corrections needed later in the game to counteract what adjustments the other team has made on defense.  Some of those plays in the two-minute drill at the end were not in the game plan.  But we called what was needed at that time to get down the field and score.  There was a lot of give and take between all of us about what those adjustments needed to be and I liked the direction Buster took us in.”

Looking at the defense, how many times in your career have you ever seen a defense hold a team to 8 yards in the 4th quarter?  Particularly against an option offense? – “I don’t know if I’ve been a part of that to be honest.  One play aside, and they played lights out football.  Got off the field on third downs.  They protected the end zone with short fields and forced field goals.  Stopped them on 4th and short.  The one thing they didn’t do is get turnovers.  Other than that it was a perfect game plan and they executed it well.  Before the game they wanted to do two things.  Out work them and out hit them.  We out-worked them and we out-hit them in every phase of the game.  The work that Matt Shadeed has done with our guys with our process is incredible.  It’s proven.  We get better in the 3rd and 4th quarter when the other team gets tired.  I told them at halftime, “Every time I make you sprint off the field in August.  Every time the strength coaches make you run one last sprint in the summer.  This is where that comes in.”  You could see the confidence in their eyes that they would have gas in the tank at the end and would not allow themselves to get out-worked.  That’s what carried the team, and it’s definitely what carried the defense in the 4th quarter.”

Looking forward, what is on your mind in what needs to be accomplished before the South Alabama game to carry this momentum forward? – “We need to carry what went right with us into next week’s preparation.  What I don’t want is to ever come back in the locker room after a conference game, against an opponent we’re as good as or better than athletically, and look these guys in the eyes and say, “We could have won that game if we would have fixed this.”  So we want to carry the positives forward but you have to be just as critical after a win as you are after a loss.  We have a great team performance waiting to break out somewhere in the future.  We need to make the corrections needed to see that performance.  It’s not just going to happen.  Like this game.  Take out the turnovers and we’re probably seeing that great performance.  This game was an example of great fight and determination to find a way to win.  But nobody is sitting here thinking we showed our best performance in this game.  That’s what we have to find and we did take a step closer to it this week.”