By Jeff Greenberg
The Arkansas State Red Wolves bounced back from a tough loss last week to win their game against South Alabama, 38-14 at home in Jonesboro. Head Coach Blake Anderson saw his defense respond with a dominant performance this week in limiting their opponent in all phases. The offense continued it’s current surge in production and generated over 500 yards with a balanced attack behind senior quarterback, Justice Hansen. Coach Anderson caught up with us to discuss his team’s rebound in this game for this week’s “5th Quarter.”
- 1st Quarter: The defense had a tough outing last week. What was the focus this week with that unit that enabled them to have a great bounce-back performance? – “The emphasis really was on simplicity. Let’s keep it simple and just let our guys go out there and fly around the field and make plays. The focus was on effort and seeing how many hats we could get to the ball on every play. I think keeping it simple helped make our younger guys play faster and be more aggressive as well. We felt like we had some match-ups that were in our favor, but only if we brought the effort needed to take advantage of those match-ups. We tried to get Jerry Jacobs locked up on their best wide-out throughout the game. That was the one match-up where we felt like it was in their favor; so it was going to take a great game from Jerry to neutralize that advantage. I thought he stepped up to that challenge and really disrupted their guy from being able to be a factor at all in the game. What they do on offense was different than last week and I think we matched up well to that. But honestly, I think it came down to playing with a chip on our shoulder because of what happened the week before. It was one of those moments where you just have to decide you’re going to fight like mad to beat the guy across from you. And that you’re going to do that for 60 minutes until the referees tell you the game is over. You can’t just do it well for 56 minutes. It takes that gritty effort for 60 minutes to win these games.”
- 2nd Quarter: You mentioned Jerry Jacobs being matched up on Jamarius Way. How would you describe the job Jerry did covering him in this game? – “Way was the best player on their team and if I’m not mistaken, he only had one catch, which didn’t come until there was less than 4 minutes to go in the game. So I think Jerry did everything we asked him to do. He competed hard and he neutralized our opponent’s best player. That’s how you win games. You put together the strategy and then the players go and execute it. Jerry did that on Saturday. And it wasn’t just him. Some of the other guys like Jeremy Smith did well in some 1-on-1 situations with him. The back-end of the defense overall had a great game in my opinion. I thought the way our line handled the front and really kept the quarterback from getting comfortable at all with pressure helped as well. So it was a team effort. But it started with having a guy lining up and getting in Way’s face with tough man coverage all night long. That’s what Jerry did for us.”
- 3rd Quarter: Justice Hansen seems to be in good groove right now and he’s playing with a ton of confidence. How has he responded to the conversations you had with him a few weeks back after the Appalachian State game? – “I think Justice has responded like I knew he would. He’s come out and just concentrated on enjoying the game and having fun out there. When you do that it allows you to loosen up a bit and just play football the way you know how. When you’re trying to do everybody else’s job then it can throw you off of your game. You have to be able to trust the other guys to do their jobs. So I think Justice is taking care of everything he needs to do at the quarterback position to lead this team and get the offense in the end zone more often than not. He knows what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish each week. I think the confidence in his targets has risen as the season has progressed because those guys are playing at a high level right now. Our running game has been better, which has taken some pressure off of Justice and given him more time to operate and see the field. I think those conversations were a great reset button for him and it’s shown in his play the last few weeks.”
- 4th Quarter: How important has your punter, Cody Grace, been to your team this season? – “Cody is huge asset to this team in every game. He’s a weapon for us. It starts with his poise before the kick. But then it’s obviously the skills he has with the kick that has made him one of, if not the best punter in the nation. The ability for him to hang the ball up so long and prevent returns plays a major role in trying to control the field position battle. He can pin it into the boundary when we need him to and he can pin it deep for us too because our guys can get down there and make the play due to how high he can kick the ball. I think we’re one of the best teams in nation when it comes to preventing punt return yardage. Even going back to the Alabama game where we were facing the best returners on the planet and still be able to neutralize their ability to make a play is because of what Cody can do with the ball. So, while we’d love to limit how many opportunities he gets in a game, when he does run on the field you know he’s going to take care of his job for you. He has so much pride in what he does and works hard at it so you know you can count on him.”
- 5th Quarter: You’re heading out on the road again this week. Beyond the game plan and schemes for this game, what will be the key to the mental game this week for your guys to come out with a win? – “Keep it simple. Have your mind and focus on controlling what you have to do each day in our meetings and then out on the practice field. We did that last week and I felt like it was one of our best weeks of practice all season. They responded to the challenge of rebounding from a tough loss. I also talked with them about controlling how they deal with the noise. The outside noise. Stay focused on what they’re hearing from the coaches and their teammates. That’s what matters. If they focus on each task and then listen to the people inside the locker room, they can accomplish what is needed to win. Just have fun and play the game with maximum effort. Do what you need to do to be better this week than you were last week. That’s what I want them thinking about today, tomorrow and when they take the field on Saturday night. That’s it.”
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.