We’ve all heard that Gus Malzahn is in it for the long haul in Jonesboro. He’s said it himself. He’s not a one-and-done for the Arkansas State Red Wolves, but instead he intends to build the Red Wolves into a program that can compete for a Top 25 ranking annually. We’re glad he says it, and we hope he really means it. The problem is, Gus, if you keep hanging half-a-hundred on the hot-name coaches in the Sun Belt Conference on their home fields week after week, you’re going to have a decision to make. And while money may not always matter, this much money at these kinds of programs will matter.
WHY ARKANSAS STATE WON: A complete conference game — yes, even the special teams — gave Arkansas State its third consecutive victory. The Red Wolves (5-3, 3-1) controlled momentum for four quarters, and when the Ragin Cajuns (4-3, 2-2) took a step forward, John Thompson’s defense forced them into mistakes, including five turnovers. Senior Ryan Aplin finished the game 21 of 31 for 269 yards and one touchdown while David Oku rushed for his team high 10th touchdown as ASU never trailed and didn’t allow the Cajuns to score until the seven-minute mark in the second quarter. The large lead for ASU allowed to the team to run 27 straight rushing plays to end the game. The final pass play came with 8:39 left in the third quarter.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Special teams continue to be a sore spot for Arkansas State but the offense, with J.D. McKissic emerging as the top receiver, and the defense led by grabby defensive back Qushaun Lee showed they can overcome slow starts, grab momentum and turn in complementary performances.
Gus Malzahn doesn’t mind playing a freshman if he thinks the player can contribute. That’s why he hasn’t been shy about working young players into the mix during the non-conference portion of the schedule. And the youth movement has produced for Malzahn and the Red Wolves (2-2), especially on offense. From center Bryce Giddens to wide receiver J.D. McKissic and running backs Michael Gordon and Rocky Hayes and other first-year guys the contributions have been plentiful.
Seven different Red Wolves scored and Arkansas State scored 42 points in the first half as it cruised to a non-conference victory in Jonesboro. The offense found its rhythm after a poor showing against Nebraska.
Arkansas State Coach Gus Malzahn has pinpointed three specific areas he wants to see the team improve this week. Alcorn State, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, gives the Red Wolves an opportunity to make improvements in a final game before Sun Belt Conference play opens Sept. 29 against Western Kentucky. Where specifically does Malzahn want to see ASU make strides?
Josh Jarboe knows nothing is guaranteed this week against Memphis. Arkansas State can’t count on another 49-3 victory in the 57th meeting with its rival from across the Mississippi River. Jarboe can’t be assured a repeat of last year’s seven-catch, 162-yard performance against the Tigers when the two teams meet on Saturday.
Don't judge the 2012 season on one game at No. 5 Oregon. That was ASU Coach Gus Malzahn's message on Monday as he looked back at Saturday's 57-34 loss. Malzahn wasn't happy his team trailed the No. 5 Ducks 50-3 at one point, but he said the outcome wasn't totally unexpected.
There isn’t much opportunity for Gus Malzahn to ease into his college coaching debut with Arkansas State. He and ASU open with No. 5 Oregon, a team viewed as a legitimate national title contender. Malzahn, not surprisingly, is focused more on his Arkansas State team than himself. He envisions turning the Red Wolves into a Top 25 program and how far into the process he is after a little more than eight months on the job will become clearer on ESPN Saturday at 9:30 p.m. CDT.
Arkansas State lost many of its top playmakers on defense from a 10-victory season in 2011. Gone too is the defensive coordinator who helped the Red Wolves’ resurgence last season. Any concerns about how the unit will perform while replacing seven starters might not have been totally alleviated in a Saturday scrimmage, but there were some encouraging signs from the defense.
Veteran coaches J.B. Grimes and John Thompson had no reservations about joining the staff at Arkansas under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. It may be Malzahn's first year as a head coach, but the coaches see an upside not just to working with an acknowledged offensive mastermind, but to returning to their home state and working for an up and coming Red Wolves' program.
No, there hasn’t been a college football award watch list announcement every day of the summer. It just seems that way. Below we roundup what players with state ties have been nominated. Keep in mind some lists allow players to be added later in the year, so strong performances over the first half of the season from players at Arkansas or Arkansas State could land a player under consideration.
The inevitable question arose for new Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze on Thursday at SEC Media Days: How would you compare the talent you had at Arkansas State last year to the talent at Ole Miss this year? Freeze did a little dance around the question. "I don't know if that's a fair judge necessarily, because the year we had last year at Arkansas State was a remarkable ride," Freeze said.
Numbers and victories weren't enough to satisfy Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin. Under his third head coach in three years, offensive mastermind Gus Malzahn, Aplin is anxious to help bring further glory to a Red Wolves program on the upswing.
Many of the same qualities that led Malzahn to success at the prep level helped him succeed as an offensive coordinator in college. Now he has his shot at proving his offensive philosophies, big vision and drive to succeed can work at Arkansas State.
Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named Sun Belt Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and the Red Wolves were picked second in the preseason poll announced Monday as part of the league’s annual Media Days.