The Red Wolf offense remains a work in progress. The good news is the progress has been very encouraging.
The pre-game keys we set out.
Get the pass rush going. Uh.. BAM! The Red Wolves posted six sacks on the game. Throw in another three tackles for loss. Chris Odom led the way with three sacks, Ja’von Rolland-Jones added two, and Waylon Roberson had one. Especially impressive was late in the game when AState went to a three man rush and Rolland-Jones picked up a sack rushing off the edge fighting off a USA lineman.
Involve Hansen in the rushing game. He had 15 carries for a net 37 but gained a total of 63. His numbers took a hit with a bad/mishandled snap and a play later tripping and losing his shoe as well the sacks. Hansen’s longest run was 14 yards. Voytik added a net six yards on three carries.
Ball protection. Hansen was picked once. Bayless fumbled once but Blake Mack recovered the fumble. Only one turnover on the night is a big improvement over 12 turnovers in the three previous games.
Force turnovers. The Red Wolves picked up two turnovers. Chris Humes forced a fumble on a pass reception by USA and recovered the fumble with a 60 yard touchdown return. Cody Brown picked off a USA pass at the three after the Jaguars had moved the ball to the AState 25.
The Red Wolves put together four drives of 60 or more yards but those possessions netted only ten points. A missed FG and an interception ended two of the four. AState had only one three and out on the night, that came in the first half. AState punted three more times in the second half but gained at least one first down each time.
Discarding the two drives to run out each half, AState produced 60 or more yards on four of nine possessions, that’s a nice ratio. The next challenge is converting those longer drives into points.
Defensively, AState gave up two drives longer than 50 yards. One was stopped with a pick, the other produced a TD for USA. The scoring drive was built around one long pass that featured some missed tackles. USA was forced three and out four different times. More impressively, USA lost yards on all four of those drives.
At the halfway point of the season, I believe the defense has found its stride and in the form needed to contend for another Sun Belt title. The offense is not in championship form yet but has taken advantage of a long week ahead of Georgia Southern and a long before USA to make significant progress. The Red Wolves now have one more long preparation period in advance of the ULM game. Hopefully another long practice period means another growth spurt in the offense.