The Arkansas State Red Wolves survived against Georgia State but we saw some of the same issues that have been there all season.
“The 25-yard line wasn’t the goal line, that was the most frustrating,’’ said offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. “The first half I think we are down there five times and we come away with three points. If we just get half the points when we are down there, say you get 17, it is an entirely different ball game in the second half. We have got to find a way finish drives.
“I thought we did a good job in the first half of hitting all our explosive plays that we thought we could hit. It was like we were just firing blanks on the ones to the end zone. We have got to finish drives and we have got to be better on third downs.
“I thought we were making strides after the Monroe game and Saturday we did not make progress.”
Against Georgia State, the Red Wolves were 4 of 8 in the red zone and 3 of 16 on third downs. That was coming off the ULM game where A-State was 5 of 13 on third down (better than that in the first half) and 7 for 7 in the red zone.
“We did some really good things between the 20s,’’said head coach Blake Anderson. “We stalled too much. We have got to score points better in the red zone and we have go to do better on third down. Those are two things we have struggled with and it has to be something that we improve upon over the next four games to win.
Inside the 20s, we don’t want to be settling for field goals and we missed two, which is not typical of JD (Houston) either. If you get points there you feel a little bit better. And a fumble in scoring territory. That is 3 series where you come away with no points. You come away really frustrated at how the game win. You get over it and find a way to win.”
For the season, ASU is 28 of 109 on third down (26 percent) and 24 of 30 in the red zone, but just 16 of 30 on touchdowns.
“It was a little bit of everything,’’ said Falkner. “I think we didn't execute a couple of things. We could have made a better decision on the one we threw in the corner to Blake (Mack). Could he have caught it, maybe, but the back was a better option.
“Being able to convert on third down on the first series. It was third and 3 and we got 2 yards. Some of it is that, some of it being a short week and some of it them being pretty good on defense. We felt like we let them off the hook in the first half. We just have to do a better job of putting it in the end zone.”
Speaking of defense
The Red Wolves defense turned in its third straight strong showing.
“Obvioiusly the defense is playing really, really well,’’ said Anderson. “They have not given up many points in the last three weeks. I know it was mentioned that it is the lowest point total for a three-game stretch in conference play since somewhere in the 80s. So they are obviously playing well so we are obviously leaning a lot on them.”
The Red Wolves have allowed 7, 10 and 10 (one score was a kickoff return) in the last three games.
Helping with the defense has been a philosophical change of playing slower at times.
“We have not played with tremendous tempo,’’ said Anderson. “We have done what we needed to do to win. Offense has struggled, inexperienced quarterback, lot of new pieces to the puzzled. You have to move your pride to the side and just win. Turnovers and explosives are always going to be key but, what is the game inside the game. This week it was special teams. And it has been defense.”
In the last month the Red Wolves switched redshirt freshman punter Damon Foncham to a rugby-style punt.
“It has taken some pressure off him,’’ said Anderson. “It’s been the last 3 games. We still have the ability to do a conventional punt. We have been able to buy him some time and reduce the chance for someone to return the ball. I keep thinking someone is going to get hit by the ball and we are going to steal a possession. Always a possibility.
“We knew he could do it during the season we weren't ready to move in that full scale but it has proven over the last couple of weeks to have been easier on him, take some pressure off him and still stay within the integrity of what we want to do coverage wise. His last two punts were huge. To be able to pen them down on the 2 and make them have to go 98 yards knowing they need two scores in that situation was a huge play for us.”
Against Georgia State he had 7 punts for a 48.1 yard average, 3 kicks inside the 20 and allowed just one kick was returned for 1 yard.
--Starting center Robert Mondie is expected back for New Mexico State.
--Cameron Echols-Luper was substituted for Blaise Taylor on one punt return vs. Georgia State because Taylor needed a break. “He played a lot of snaps.”