The Red Wolves did more than beat a disrespectful spread
September 10, 2022 will not be remembered by Sun Belt Historians as the Day the Red Wolves Lost to Ohio State But Beat a 44-Point Vegas Line. Nah, the memories belong to Marshall, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, who would drop #8 Notre Dame, #6 Texas A&M and Golden Oldie Nebraska in what is likely the most successful week all time for the SBC.
Still, it was a historic day for Arkansas State – a day for which the promise of a return to glory is reborn. Understood, it’s a loser’s mentality to draw satisfaction from a loss. To hell with the letter L. Coach Butch Jones expressed as much after the game, but he also saw the significance of what was revealed on the gridiron. “There are no moral victories,” said Jone, “But I am proud of the way our kids competed. And that’s what I wanted to see, the type of competitive grit they had.”
Grit? For sure. Ohio State is comprised of five-star recruits, All Americans, future NFL studs and a current Heisman favorite. Two of the Buckeyes’ star receivers sat the game out, and QB CJ Stroud still had the son of an NFL Hall of Famer to throw TD passes. Meanwhile, Arkansas State is a team of grit-and-grinders, led by a 5’6″ wide receiver and and a defense rising from the ooze of season so horrible that it compelled Vegas to grant the Buckeyes an outlandish 44-point line.
What did the Red Wolves win if the Buckeyes actually won the game? For starters, we won a place kicker. Dominic Zvada was fantastic, hitting 4-of-4 field goals – including a 45 yarder in front of 100,000 unfriendly fans. For added measure, punter Ryan Hansen averaged better than 50 yards a boot.
Arkansas State gained a victory in discipline. The Red Wolves didn’t commit a single turnover and committed only 6 penalties (three fewer than the home team).
The Red Wolves won a superstar in Champ Flemings (10 receptions, 125 total yards), and a backfield general in Eddie Smith (6 tackles, 4 solo).
Arkansas State’s defense surrendered 45 points and contributed to CJ Stroud’s Heisman campaign (351 yards, 4 TDs), but the unit also delivered a good number of three-and-outs and 6 TFLs against the Buckeyes’ massive frontline.
The game was over after three quarters. In fact, the Buckeyes more or less iced the outcome after emerging from halftime and rapidly putting up a pair of touchdowns (plus a third just for kicks). Neither team scored in the 4th quarter, though A-State backup quarterback AJ Mayer was about 20 seconds short of leading the second-squad to a goal line finish.
Red Wolves didn’t win the game, and I’m not about to diminish the importance of victory. Wins are the only legitimate measure of success. Coastal Carolina barely edged a victory over FCS Gardner-Webb tonight, but the Chanticleers still collected the win. In the end, this day will be remembered for that before anyone remembers that Arkansas State fell by 33 points to a College Football Playoff Contender.
But if there is a feeling that closely approximates victory, I think I feel it tonight.
PHOTO CREDIT: It’s mine but you can have it if you want it