Red Wolves Will Show Off New Offense, Determined Attitude on ESPN2 Against Middle Tennessee

by Jim Harris  on Monday, Nov. 1, 2010 11:10 am  

Demario Davis (23), M.D. Jennings (26) and Kelcie McCray (21) celebrate with Adrian Hills after Hills'p game-turning interception and touchdown runback against Florida Atlantic on Oct. 23. (Photo by Jimmy Jones)

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Faced with the ignominy of losing a home game against a beatable Sun Belt Conference foe after so many close losses this season, Arkansas State’s football team rediscovered how to win.

It’s easy to forget how, or to maybe believe winning is never in the cards, when you lose in regular heart-breaking fashion the way ASU had in most of its five losses in its first seven games.

So, there the Red Wolves were, starting another loss in the face, trailing Florida Atlantic 16-9 early in the fourth quarter on Oct. 22 — that is, until the defense came alive and helped ignite a 28-point spree during a wild five-and-a-half minute span. That allowed ASU to win its third game of the season, 37-16, and set the stage for a solid finish to the 2010 season.

The schedule makers were kind this time, too, allowing 10 days before playing preseason Sun Belt favorite Middle Tennessee in a Tuesday, Nov. 2, televised game in Jonesboro, then another 11 days before a conference game at home with Western Kentucky. ASU finishes the season on the road: at Navy — which beat Notre Dame on Oct. 23 — and at Florida International.

A 7-5 finish is possible, a 6-6 finish very much in reach even with a loss to the Midshipmen in Annapolis, Md. ASU can win out in the league and finish 6-2 in conference play. Just winning the remaining home games would allow ASU to better last season’s mark and finish 5-7 overall.

Anyone wanting more must consider that ASU annually guarantees itself income for the bottom line as well as pretty much guaranteeing three losses as well by playing BCS-conference programs. At least this year, ASU finally got one of those at home, a much-improved Louisville of the Big East.

ASU lost yet another close one at Indiana, 36-34, on Oct. 16, and had now-No. 1 Auburn on the ropes in the season opener before running out of steam in the second half and losing 52-26.

Of course, nothing stung Steve Roberts and the Red Wolves worse than taking the lead at league rival Troy (Sept. 25) with 54 seconds left, 28-27, only to give up the winning score less than 30 seconds later.

Finally, on Oct. 23, ASU saw misfortune turn around. Time will tell if it helped A-State turn a corner with a fairly young team.

“I’m proud of the way we made the plays at critical times,” Roberts said. “We’ve been making plays, just not the critical plays, and we were able to do that Saturday.”

Adrian Hills returned an interception for the Red Wolves with the game tied at 16, then defense forced another fumble off on a sack to set up a short scoring plunge, and A-State was off to the races with 28 unanswered points. Hills stepped up with another interception to set up the final scoring drive.

Roberts said he hoped the comeback was the momentum boost to push ASU to a winning record.



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