Arkansas State defensive ends senior Chris Odom and junior Ja’Von Rolland-Jones made the final cut for the Ted Hendricks award, which honors the top defensive end in the nation. A-State was one of two schools to have two players on the final list of 17.
“You can't talk about one without the other,’’ said Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson. “That is why they both have their name on that list. They feed off each other. Chris Odom has made Ja’Von better. He really has. Ja Von was already good at what he was doing.
“Coach (Brian) Early has done a phenomenal job, Brandon Joiner has been a great addition. It's fun to watch how they respond to him. We’ve got Ja'Von for another year. To have already broken the conference record (for sacks) and to have 2 more games this year and another season. He is playing the run so much better. He is an every down player. He wasn't a year ago. He wasn't even an every down player at the beginning of the year.
“It’s neat to watch both those guys get the recognition they are getting.”
Anderson addresses controversial ending
“We would have loved for the review to go in our way at the end,’’ he said. “Whether I agree with it or not doesn't matter . Sour grapes at this point.
“I’ve looked at it a lot because I wanted to see if we executed properly. We did. There were definitely some things to correct from it. I've seen games like that where you don’t even get the play off; the opportunity to score where it is thrown out of bounds or the guy is sacked.
“We had the ball to throw from the pocket and did not like the option. We had the opportunity to scramble drill with is part of how we teach and did not like that option and had the opportunity to create a lateral option. The guy who tipped him (Justice Hansen) from behind, he thought he had passed him by, and it caught him off guard or he would have been able to create more of a true option possibility as to throwing in the way down.
“It's a matter of shutter frames if the ball was coming out of his hands or not. That was my argument. It was not a forward pass it was a lateral. At what point is it conclusive that he didn't have control of it anymore. I’ve watched it a million times and I am not convinced that it's 100 percent. I don’t get to make the call so it really doesn't matter.”
Anderson said the team works regularly on last-play scenarios.
“We we have them from the minus 5, the 30, the 50, the 20, 10 the 5 .. we teach those all the time, year round. They never change. In terms of the thought process. What we can’t do is run out of bounds, get tackled with the ball or throw the ball out of bounds.
“Our guys executed really really well with the exception that knee went down.
Its keep the play alive. … And it almost worked. Our guys did not panic.
Red Zone issues
Against the Cajuns the Red Wolves were 3 of 6, missing a field goal and twice being stopped on downs.
“Red zone possession with no points are just too costly,’’ said Anderson. “The red zone issue is something we have struggled with all year. We have not found the answer to. We’ve overcome it for six weeks and and the end of the day it caught us this time. You have almost 600 yards and 19 points, just not supposed to happen.”
Anderson pointed out the closer a team gets to the goal line is it more difficult for spread teams to score touchdowns.
“You run out of space,’’ he said. “You pack 22 people in a space, in a phone booth so to speak. If you are not a powerful downhill running physical football team It gets really difficult. You just don’t have space, you don’t have grass. Everyone is closer.
When you see us score from outside that area you’ve seen us put up great numbers. … but when you get a physical front, which you saw against Auburn, Toledo, we saw against Troy and these guys and you can’t move them it gets really tough. A big physical front and you can't move then. You see that with spread teams all the time. We are really good from 20 to 20 unless you can create a real physical presence up front and that is not the way we are built right now. Those guys up front were big and they were going to be hard to move.”
Offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner added: “It’s Very frustrating to not be able to finish drives like we did against Troy, Monroe and NM State. From 20 to 20 probably as well as we have played all year. We executed the gameplan better than we have all year.
ULL being ULL
added that ULL coach Mark Hudspeth reached out to address the behavior after the game by the Cajuns.
“He called me the day after and apologized for the attitude of this players and the end of the game. And really was embarrassed by it. And we talked .
“I was really worried about it getting out of control. You could tell it had a chance too and it had already started to spark. I walked over to him and said Hud regardless of how this review goes we have got to control this. He said I agree, Let's just keep them apart. Not shake hands either way. I agree. I went back to my side and had my guys get on a knee. That would at least slow the process. We could get bodies in front of them. I was extremely proud of how our guys handled the situation.
“The reason Hud called me was our guys showed their … butts. And I was embarrassed. It shouldn't have happened. Your guys handled it with class.
It could have gotten really ugly. I've been around those. Three quarter of their team came over and taunted in front of our players. And our guys did not respond. That is almost impossible. That is almost impossible for me not to respond. That is just the way we are built”