It was Halloween weekend, but the Red Wolves didn’t to try to be anybody but themselves this past Saturday night in Jonesboro. Louisiana-Monroe came to town and got scared right out of the stadium early and often in a convincing Red Wolves’ victory. It was the first comfortable win for Head Coach Blake Anderson’s squad, but there’s no time to sit back and enjoy it. His team has a short-week to get ready to go on the road to face Georgia State. Coach 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 Thursday night’s game.
The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson – Louisiana-Monroe
1st Quarter: After the first game this season where you won in convincing fashion, what was your message to the team in the locker room afterwards? – “First, I told them I was proud of them. This was their first really complete game in all 3 phases. I was happy with how they played with that lead and how they came out in the third quarter ready to put the game out of reach before we started getting our substitutions in near the end of the third quarter. There were still some areas for us to improve and learn from but I wanted them to have a chance to celebrate a little bit. I say a little bit because we have had to turn the page quickly and focus on our short-week prep for Georgia State. We’re playing a team that I feel like is extremely dangerous. I think Georgia State is playing much better football than their record shows to be honest. It’s a road game and they’ll be looking for a big win. So I let our guys know they had played a great game and did what they were asked to do. Now I needed them to focus on getting another big win this week. We don’t get to have any weeks off moving forward. Each win is crucial to our goals and where we want to go.”
2nd Quarter: The defense only surrendered 99 yards of total offense before you started substituting the starters out near the end of the third quarter. What do you think contributed most to that type of performance? – “The first team defense played great all night. They just dominated. Monroe was unable to do anything against our guys before we started getting our 2s and 3s in there. It was valuable to get those guys those reps in the last quarter and a half, but I know it’s frustrating as a coordinator to think about what the stat line may have been if the starters had stayed in the game. I think it was really a combination of good things that contributed to this performance. I think we stopped the run by getting a ton of hats to the ball every time. We knew they would struggle in the passing game with our pass rush and the fact they lost their starting quarterback a few weeks back. So we had a strong game plan coming in by Coach Cauthen and our guys executed it well. You can see it in their body language right now that this defense is operating at a high level and their confidence and pride continue to grow.”
3rd Quarter: In recent weeks, compared to the beginning of the year, Justice seems to be getting more zip on his throws and making passes he wasn’t making in his first starts. What do you think is driving that change? – “I would agree with that. His confidence is continuing to increase because he‘s getting more comfortable in his position. Justice is starting to grasp our concepts in game situations now and that’s a lot different than what you experience as a quarterback in practice. So he’s better now at knowing where he should be going with the ball. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but his eyes are better and his mechanics are better. It’s hard to throw the ball with a tremendous amount of power when you’re not sure or confident in knowing where the ball is supposed to go. I thought the plan was good for him too in terms of protection. The offensive line play has improved every game. When the guys up front are protecting you, it makes it easier to make good throws. So, I’m just pleased to see him spreading the ball around, knowing his reads more, and of course, not putting the ball in harm’s way. He’s taking what the defenses are giving him and he’s throwing catchable balls to our guys.”
4th Quarter: After the game you mentioned that you had a hard time reading the vibe of this team before the game. Does that rattle your nerves a bit before kickoff? – “Yes, it does. I just couldn’t get a read on where their emotion level was before the game. We had a great week of practice with a great amount of energy. Guys executed well in practice so that gives you confidence. I just got concerned with whether or not they had that before kickoff. The other coaches felt the same way. We all tried to figure out who was coming out of that tunnel. So I just challenged the guys before we left the locker room. I told them, “You guys say you’re ready but I don’t see it on the surface. But I trust you. So show it to us when that ball is kicked.” Then they went out and played maybe the best half of football we’ve seen since we’ve been here. So I guess my trust was well-placed. Every team is different and every kid is different. But, no, it’s not good for my nerves(laughing). I had to just tell myself that you don’t win the game by being all hyped up in warm-ups. You win it by bringing the energy when the ball is kicked off.”
Overtime: What’s your favorite Halloween memory/experience? – “There are a lot of them. I’m sure you saw our video we sent out from our team’s costume contest. I’ve said it many times before, but we work too darn hard to not have some fun in this game. But my favorite memories go back to my hometown of Hubbard, Texas. We used to have huge water balloon wars. And I don’t mean just around our house. I mean the entire town would engage in water balloon wars all over Hubbard. Everybody got in on it. If you know me, that’s right up my competitive alley. I miss those times. It was a blast every year. Of course, trick-or-treaters were off limits…mostly. They were mostly off-limits(laughing).”