Cure Bowl: Arkansas State 31, UCF 13. 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017
Arkansas State didn’t get much going offensively, but the defense rose up and rocked UCF 31-13 for a strong Cure Bowl win. What are the five things that matter, and what’s next?
The rise of Arkansas State
The talent was in place to be a Sun Belt star and dominate from the start, but instead, it got crushed at home by Toledo, was destroyed by Auburn, lost to a bad Utah State team, and then lost to Central Arkansas for a brutal 0-4 start. But a funny thing happened along the way to being one of the nation’s most disappointing teams: it got a lot better.
The defense became the Arkansas State defense we were all waiting for, the offense got better and better, and the team roared to an 8-1 finish with a piece of the Sun Belt title. No offense to the MAC – okay, some offense to the MAC – but that’s an American Athletic Conference team ASU beat on its home turf.
UCF apparently didn’t know where the stadium was
Really, UCF? You went 0-12 last year. You think the team would’ve been jacked up to play in a bowl game, even at home. The UCF offense might not have been anything special, but it was good enough to go along with a strong defense that struggled late, but was good overall.
But here was the problem – UCF was a bum slayer.
The Knights didn’t beat a bowl team going 0-6 against teams that went to the post-season – and 6-0 against teams that didn’t. Make that 0-7 after the offense went nowhere against, what appeared to be, the more excited and jacked up Red Wolves.
But UCF just wasn’t strong enough offensively yet. As this game showed, there’s still a long way to go to get back to the level of a few years ago.
Uhhhh, a running game?
This was supposed to be a bit of a low-scoring fight, but it was a massive struggle for both sides. The defenses were strong, but the ground games were painful with ASU running for 39 yards on 38 carries, and UCF with 11 yards on 30 carries.
Fortunately for Arkansas State, Kendall Sanders carried the day with 127 yards and three scores on five catches, and despite all the issues on offense, the defense did the rest.
Especially against the UCF ground game.
What’s next for UCF in 2017?
Scott Frost is still the UCF head coach. That alone is a great place to start.
Can the Knights start to crank up more offense? RB Dontravious Wilson is done, but four starters are back on the offensive front, young QB McKenzie Milton should be sharper, and almost all the key targets are back.
The defense that was so nasty all year is going to be an issue. The entire secondary is finished after an amazing season, and three of the four starters in the linebacking corps are done. DT Jamiyus Pittman – if he’s back – will be the leader of a potentially dominant defensive front, but again, it’s going to take a while for the D to come together with just four starters back.
What’s next for Arkansas State in 2017?
Eventually, someone will snap up head coach Blake Anderson, but he’s still around for now. With QB Justice Hansen back, and some decent backs in Warren Wand and Johnston White to work around, the Red Wolves have a few nice offensive pieces to start with. Now they need a line, with all five starters gone.
The defensive line has just as many issues, with Chris Odom gone on one side and three starters gone in all. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is only one likely returning up front, while losing LB Xavier Woodson-Luster is a problem. The secondary takes a massive hit, too, losing safeties Money Hunter and Cody Brown, along with CB Chris Humes. Seven starters are gone in all.