The Jaguars visit the Red Wolves on Halloween Weekend
When I was a little kid, I desperately wanted to become a werewolf – more specifically the Lon Chaney Jr. version, who wore pants and stood upright, prowling the foggy moors. He seemed like a cool guy, though tragically misunderstood and unfairly prejudiced for his lust for human flesh.
It was the “werewolf transformation” that I found most fascinating. For Lon Chaney Jr., the transformation was hypnotic in its peacefulness – a gradual burst of yak hair sprouting over his eerily immobile face, his hands magically phalanges for paws. In later cinema, the werewolf transformation turned more violent, more painful and with a longer, torturous duration (think “American Werewolf in London”). The horror of this transformation was congruent with the terror that the werewolf would apply to its victims – to the delight of the audience.
The full moon hovers over Jonesboro, but the Arkansas State Red Wolves are only in the midst of that painful, drawn and violent werewolf transformation, with the fangs still receded within our human gums. As fans, we watch in horror as this man-wolf writhes upon the open field, bones breaking! Tendons snapping and re-knitting! Jowls elongating! Claws puncturing through the tips of what were once ordinary fingers! It’s gross!
But in the end, you get a pretty cool werewolf out of the deal. You need only stomach the grisly transformation.
Jaguars Have Become The Most Dangerous Game
When assessing the Sun Belt for contenders, South Alabama rises to the top bearing exceptional balance – the nation’s 42nd total offense and 20th total defense. Carter Bradley, a big-armed transfer from Toledo, has given the Jags the raw boost of airpower that Kane Wommack’s offense was missing. Bradley ranks 4th in the Sun Belt for passing yards (1,940) and 6th for passing TDs (13).
Defensively, only the Dukes and the Thundering Herd allow fewer yards, and the Jaguars have produced nine picks (compared to only three for the Red Wolves). Where the unit excels is the Red Zone, which ranks 11th nationally and has allowed only 10 touchdowns.
As a result, the Jaguars are now 5-2 with losses to UCLA and bitter rival Troy, to whom the Jags fell 10-6 in an epic battle of defense last Thursday night.
Medically, the Red Wolves are a Nightmare
One can argue that Arkansas State is a nightmare on offense and defense, too, but that’s not entirely fair, as the team is enduring a true epidemic of injuries, with three key cornerbacks, the starting quarterback, and the rotational running back all unavailable for a terrible loss to the Cajuns.
The Red Wolves are ill-equipped to deal with so many losses owing to the youth and inexperience of the team – roughly 70 freshmen and sophomores comprise the roster. As a result, red shirts are filling the laundry basket, and young players are being asked to fill important roles.
The good news? Coach Butch Jones announced on Tuesday that quarterback James Blackman is expected to be back behind center (though Jones has sometimes been rather cagey about player status). The offensive performance against the Cajuns underscored Blackman’s value, with both AJ Mayer and freshman Jaxon Dailey struggling to sustain drives.
The Jaguar to Neutralize: WR Jalen Wayne
Carter has evenly spread his passes between sophomore wide receiver Caullin Lacy and senior wide receiver Jalen Wayne, but Wayne has produced more touchdowns (5) and he is certainly a big target (6’2″, 207).
Another Jag to Neutralize: S Yam Banks
The sophomore and three-star recruit has four total picks, including two consecutive games with an interceptions. The Red Wolf to which Yam is assigned may see himself Yammd all day.
The Red Wolves Need to Wolf Out on Saturday
What’s extraordinary about Teen Wolf is that Michael J Fox is one million percent more convincing as a werewolf than he is a high school basketball player. That said, Fox played the role with the right attitude by embracing and exploiting his so-called family curse.
Arkansas State desperately needs to summon their inner wolf. With the team suffering so many injuries, those left on the field need to find something savage within to overcome lack of experience and development.
Having Blackman back behind center is a big deal. But stopping Carter Bradley from making a superstar out of Wayne and Lacy relies on proven defensive backs getting healthy plus big contributions from backfield youngsters like Drew Rawls, James Reed III and Jonesboro native Erik Wilson.
Additionally, the offensive line needs to grow up fast, with Elijah Zollicoffer, Noah Smith and a bulked up Aleric Watson are all expected to contribute meaningful minutes. Is it fair that so much is asked of players so young? Nope. But neither is being cursed to turn into a wolf every full moon.
The Analysis That is Final
If you were to declare that South Alabama was the best team in the Sun Belt, I would have agreed before Thursday night’s donnybrook with Troy. Still, the Jaguars have all the pieces necessary to not only win the West, but to also win the Sun Belt, giving pause to all those who have deemed the SBC East the power of the conference.
For Arkansas State, somebody needs to feel the fire in their souls and lead this team forward. Tough receptions must be completed. Tackles must be broken. Opposing drives must be halted. We’ll see if we’re getting any closer to that wolf by the time the moon rises on Jonesboro on Saturday night.
PHOTO CREDIT AND EDITS: belong to me