The Warhawks provide the Red Wolves with another attempt to pass The Test
During Monday’s flash conference with Sun Belt football coaches, Coach Butch Jones weighed in on the Red Wolves’ recent failures for closing on fourth quarter leads. “This team isn’t used to being in that position,” he said, and it struck me. Could it be true? I flashbacked to all the blowout losses from last season – many of which felt out of reach by the end of the first quarter. I quickly checked the 2021 records and came to a realization (later confirmed by my contemporary Kara Richey): last year, the Red Wolves entered the 4th quarter with the lead once: against UCA.
Arkansas State would defeat UCA, of course, and later ULM, though the Red Wolves needed to make a final quarter comeback to seal the deal. This year, three of four games have seen Arkansas State enter the 4th quarter with the lead – closing out only Grambling State. Last season’s team was always grimly playing from behind. This year’s program simply needs to learn how to win. Why not learn that valuable lesson against a team that hasn’t defeated A-State since 2009?
Yeah, ULM Really Hasn’t Beaten Arkansas State Since 2009
Did you know that the Warhawks have never defeated the Red Wolves – at volleyball? Look it up (because I didn’t). Anyway, the last time ULM beat A-State at football was when Warhawks QB Trev Revell completed just 3-8 passes to humble Corey Leonard and the Red Wolves 16-10. Since then, Warhawks have know nothing but bitter defeat at the hairy paws of the Red Wolves.
But Maybe This Is the Warhawks’ Year?
“I gotta a feeling” from the Black Eyed Peas was the #1 song in 2009, and I got a feeling that ULM is feel’n the electric energy granted by last week’s victory over Louisiana. After taking massive Ls to Texas and Alabama, the Warhawks looked better-than-solid against the defending SBC Champions, led by Andrew Henry’s 123 yards of rushing and a defense that limited the once mighty Cajuns run game to just 88 yards.
Are the Warhawks for reals? The win over the Cajuns may have been fueled by rivalry and aided by a diminished Louisiana team. However, holding Chris Smith to just 44 yards is not something to take lightly, and while Chandler Rodgers has yet to dominate a game, he provides a dual-action threat that will test A-State’s defense, which has historically faltered to running quarterbacks.
Red Wolves Quarterbacks Who Have Defeated the Warhawks Since 2009
It’s Difficult to Gauge ULM
The Warhawks lost 52-10 to Texas and 63-7 to Alabama, but put up a reasonable football score in beating the Cajuns 21-17. The offense is averaging 317 yards a game and scores the least points in the Sun Belt. On defense, the Warhawks aren’t doing anything special, at least not on paper, but linebacker Tristan Driggers is tied for the conference lead in picks. Offensively, nobody distinguishes themselves. The Warhawks, who didn’t see a single player make a preseason watch list, are as anonymous as it gets.
Who are these guys? They didn’t acquit themselves honorably against the Longhorns or Tide, but played like warrior poets against a Cajuns team that can still smell the freshly applied chrome on their conference championship.
Here’s a Graphic I Made of Butch Jones Reciting the Poem that Drops at the End of “Nights in White Satin.”
The Red Wolves are Hurt’n for a Win (and Also Just Hurting)
We opened this preview exploring the Red Wolves shortcomings for closing out games. Arkansas State could easily be heading into this game with the Warhawks 3-1 and feeding off the confidence. Instead, the team is hoping to finally put it all together against ULM. Even a victory against a program that hasn’t won in Jonesboro since 2001 would be a suitable jumpstart to a new era of winning.
But if the Red Wolves are to start this new era, they will have to do so without the services (temporarily, we hope) of offensive lineman Robert Holmes (out for the season) and a menagerie of dinged assets like Te’Vailance Hunt, Champ Flemmings, Wyatt Begeal, and Kivon Bennett. In Norfolk, the offense seemed to especially be effected by the loss of Hunt and Flemmings, forced to rely on more on the struggling run game. Hunt, Flemmings and Bennett are said to be practicing.
The Final Analysis
The early Vegas line favors the Red Wolves by 7.5, which feels pretty good. Though the Warhawks haven’t seen success against Arkansas State in more than a decade, the scoreboard has largely remained tight.
ULM clearly has abilities on the defensive side of the ball, as evidenced by its lockdown of the Cajuns. Offensively, Chandler Rodgers is still growing as a quarterback, and he doesn’t have a stud receiver or running back to assist his maturation. The team, though imperfect is on the rise.
The same can be said about the Red Wolves, now hardened in the crucible of three tough road games. It’s only a matter of time before Arkansas State finally delivers four quarters of winning football. I believe that time is Saturday.
PHOTO CREDIT: It’s mine. I need more photos.