The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson: Game 5

By Jeff Greenberg

This past Saturday, the Arkansas State Red Wolves began their conference season on the road at Georgia Southern. It was a physical game that went back-and-forth all the way down to the last seconds. In the end, the Red Wolves came up short, 28-21. Head Coach Blake Anderson caught up with us after the game for this week’s installment of “The 5th Quarter with Coach Anderson.”

  • 1st Quarter: What were the key moments or factors in your mind that led to this loss? – “We made costly mistakes at the wrong times. In a game where we dominated the stats and played well for 97% of the plays, it was those 3% of the plays that cost us. We have 11 freshmen that are playing real minutes and 15 guys that have gotten starts for the first time in their career. They’re all talented and getting better every week, but they’re also still learning and working through some growing pains. Unfortunately this week some of those growing pains happened at crucial junctions in this game. At the end of the day, we let the defense down. They played well enough to win this game and the offense just didn’t get it done. We moved the ball up and down the field and got a lot of yards, but just let it fall apart before getting into the end zone. Whether it was a turnover or a busted assignment, we managed to turn 35-40 points into 21 points; and that wasn’t enough to win this game. You can’t drop the ball down the field like we did. You can’t have a bust for a sack when we have guys open down the field that could be big plays. You can’t take a step right instead of a step left when we’re trying to convert on 4th down. I have to direct this offense to get into the end zone and we didn’t do it. It’s simple really. They have to get better in those situations, and that falls on me. That’s my job. It’s nobody’s fault but mine.”
  • 2nd Quarter: You guys are playing a lot of new guys, both young freshmen and older guys getting their first starts. What is that a function of and do you think the average fan understands those roster dynamics? – “Well, I don’t expect anybody that isn’t in our building to really understand all that goes into roster management. The same way I wouldn’t expect to walk into somebody else’s office and know everything they do to run their business. It’s a dynamic process. What I mean is that it’s a constantly evolving environment that starts long before the actual season you’re in at the moment. In our case, it stretches back to when we got here and how many actual scholarship players we had available. We’ve had to be very creative and aggressive in how we plugged holes in the roster to make sure we had a team each season that could contend for the conference title. We weren’t willing to take off a season or try to just get through a season. We went out and sought after transfers and Juco guys to help fill the voids needed each season. And then we’ve been building the talent through high school recruiting as well. We’ve been successful against our peers in recruiting and you go through cycles where in some years you lose more to graduation than in other years, particularly with starters. This is one of those years. Now, I firmly believe we have the most talented roster we’ve had since we’ve been here. There are a lot of names at the top of the roster that got a lot of press before the season, and rightfully so. But some of that talent in other parts of the depth chart is raw and they will have some missteps. Your hope is that none of those missteps will cost you a game, but in this game, they did. My job is to get them better and eliminate those missteps.”
  • 3rd Quarter: After a game like this, with a long trip home, are you the type of guy that stays up and watches film right away? Are you writing down your thoughts on the game? Sleep maybe? – “I start watching the game right away. As you soon as we got on the bus to the airport I opened up my laptop and started watching the game back and taking notes. I know the critical points in the game and I usually want to see those right away to see where the breakdowns were and what corrections need to be made. You know the yardage was there and the third down conversions were there, but the points weren’t there. So you want to go back and see whether it was the wrong decisions being made or were they assignment breakdowns. I wanted to go back and see where I can get better and help this team score more points. There’s no going to sleep. Can’t sleep after most games, let alone a game like that. I think I slept around 1-2 hours total that night and headed straight back into the office to get back to work on Sunday.”
  • 4th Quarter: What was going through your mind when you saw that reverse developing at the end of the game? – “You know what? It was a great call. It was a safe call too in that if we stopped it in the backfield we head to overtime, but if not then it could hit for a big play. It made sense with what was going on in the game and how our guys were playing. Our guys were playing fast and were pursuing the ball hard all night. We had been running well on defense all night. It was just a great call and they hit it at the right time. As it was developing you could see that pursuit from our guys and a couple of young guys we mentioned earlier got sucked inside on it. But it shouldn’t have come down to that. We missed too many opportunities on both sides of the ball to take control of this game and win. You have to give them credit for doing the things they needed to do to win.”
  • 5th Quarter: What was your message in the locker room and how were the guys taking the loss then and on Sunday when they got back into the building? – “My message was that we have to get right back to work and eliminate the mistakes that are allowing us to beat ourselves. Allowing us to stop drives before getting into the end zones. Allowing us to lose our eye discipline and give up big plays. It’s not a one-day fix. It’s work that comes every day and everybody in that room working together as one to eliminate those mistakes. I told them that at this point, we’ve only lost one of our goals. The goals of winning our division, winning the conference championship game and winning the last game of the season are all still on the table in front of us. But nothing will be handed to us. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get there. Anybody in this conference can beat you if you don’t go out there and play your best game. We’ll be in some more close games and we’ll have to find a way to win those. Never crossed my mind in this game that we wouldn’t find that way because we kept bouncing back and making plays. But in the end, it was the plays we didn’t make that cost us. I think the guys know that. They never quit and they played hard, so they know that’s not the issue. It’s doing your job on every play to put the team in a position to win the game. Our guys responded well to the message and we had a good day on Sunday. But they’re down, and it’s not something you get over easily. But I was proud of their work and their attitudes in the weight room, in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. They’ve come back ready to work and ready to play better against the team that’s playing better than anybody in this conference right now.”
  • Overtime: You’re approaching a game with big implications in the Sun Belt against Appalachian State. But it’s a Tuesday night game that kind of gives you a semi-open week. How will you approach that schedule this week? – “I don’t really see it as an open week. What it gives us is a few extra days to get guys healthy and get their bodies back. We’ve been a beat-up team since the Alabama game and we’ve played three straight physical games. So a few extra days will help with recovery. It gives us a few more days to game plan and practice that game plan. It will help some of those young guys get more reps on the field and more mental reps in the meeting rooms. This game will be a huge challenge and we will take advantage of every day and every hour ahead of us to get ready for that challenge.”

Come back each week to see what Coach Anderson has to say about his team’s performance. You can follow Coach Anderson on Twitter at @CHbanderson and Arkansas State Football at @AStateFB.

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