If you tuned into ESPNU on Thursday night, you were treated to two original Sun Belt titans clashing horns before the backdrop of the cosmos. The game bore all the fruits of primetime football entertainment: a goal line stand, a conference contender, a pass that bounced off one receiver’s hands into the hands of his teammate, pink waterfalls, sacks and picks, a 99-yard touchdown run and a cheeky message from the student section:
The one thing Red Wolves versus Cajuns lacked on Thursday night was a robust fan base in the stands. Holster your pistols, this isn’t a rebuke of the Arkansas State fanbase. I get most of it. The Red Wolves fan base is a hard-working, blue collar lot for which a Thursday night game isn’t the most convenient – especially when it comes to personally supporting a 1-6 program that has delivered some pretty difficult-to-watch pigskin in recent weeks.
But if you missed the game, you missed seeing one of the grittiest performances I’ve witnessed from a Red Wolves team.
You missed Layne Hatcher rising again and again from some of the most savage sacks I’ve seen administered in college football.
You missed a much maligned defense limit a conference title contender to just 28 points – and two quarter shutouts.
You missed freshman TE Emmanuel Stevenson collect his first college football touchdown.
You missed Te’Vailance Hunt ping-poing through the Cajun secondary for a body-sacrificing score.
You missed Jeff Foreman pluck a pass from Zeus’ fingertips.
You missed a goal line stand worthy of a Zac Snyder film.
You missed a student section that showed up and showed out.
You missed Blake Grupe cooly nailing crucial field goals.
You missed a kick-off kick that landed on the five and caromed like flubber until resting on the one.
You missed Lincoln Pare and Johnnie Lang deliver our best rush performance of the year.
But most of all, you missed what might have been the most engaging Red Wolves football game since Arkansas State upset Kansas State last season. I’m telling you, watching some competent defense – though still tragically flawed – makes all the deference.
It’s okay that you missed it. The program has disappointed, and it’s your right as a fan to stay home, maybe catch it on the ESPN Family of Channels. You don’t stray from a decade of winning seasons with pissing off fans.
But man, you missed something on Thursday night.