Sun Belt Showdown: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs 16 Miami Hurricanes
Thanks to some brilliant scheduling from Arkansas State’s athletic department, the Red Wolves play host to 16 Miami Hurricanes this Saturday.
NOTE: Thanks to Hurricane Irma, this game has been CANCELED and will not be rescheduled in 2017. Boo to all natural disasters. BOO, I SAY.
Hurricanes @ Red Wolves, Saturday September 9, 2:30 CST on ESPNU
First to all, before we begin dissecting the Xs and Os of the Red Wolves versus the Hurricanes, let’s just address this tweet from USA Today‘s Dan Wolken:
Dan, we live in an upside-down world where Power Five football programs are building mini-golf courses, twisty slides and luxury spas simply because they have more money than they can spend. You think paying a modest fee for a trip to Jonesboro is an impractical expenditure? Texas installed $10,000 lockers for each member of its mediocre football team. Texas A&M is paying $1.5M annually to an defensive coordinator who couldn’t hold a 42-10 lead. Arkansas is adding about 2,000 seats to its stadium for about $200M. I’m not sure if you’re raising your eyebrow in the right direction. Dan.
Let’s move on!
Miami is the highest ranked program to visit the great City of Jonesboro.
In 2015, the 21st ranked Missouri Tigers rumbled into Centennial Bank Stadium and skittered back home with a hard fought 27-20 victory. In 2004, 25th ranked Memphis tallied three touchdowns in the game’s final three minutes to escape with a painful 47-35 win.
That’s Jonesboro’s heartbreaking history of hosting ranked teams. Ranked 16 by the AP heading into Week 2 of the young 2017 season, Miami may regret taking the 1,000 mile trip to Northeast Arkansas: both Missouri and Memphis were removed from the Top 25 after tangling with Arkansas State.
(Cue haunting music score)
When last these titans met
It was coach Blake Anderson’s first year as head coach for Arkansas State – and Brad Kaaya’s first year as starter at Miami. Kaaya threw for 342 yards and four TDs in a 41-20 blowout at Hard Rock Stadium. There was a certain trick play that Anderson dialed up during the loss, one that made some headlines, but we’re not going to talk about it.
Three places to eat for visiting Hurricanes
- J-Town’s Grill. Located across from campus, J-Town’s serves the ultimate enemy of unclogged arteries – Big Bad Wolf Burger. Wash it down with beer for added vitamins.
- Omar’s Uptown. Suited for more upscale clientele, Omar’s is located on happening Main Street. I always order the filet, but everything is good (especially with a Tennessee bourbon).
- Brickhouse Grill. Also on Main Street, the Brickhouse brings it every nite with bar grub, bar music and a TV set up to catch more of that sweet college football action.
Impact Matchups of the Game
If Week One is any indicator (and who says it is?), this will be a contest between Miami’s power rush game and Arkansas State’s short range passing attack. Let’s review this drama’s major matchups:
WR Kendrick Edwards vs. RB Mark Walton
Walton (Jr., 5-9 205) rushed for 1,117 yards and 15 total TDs in 2016. He’s off to a nice start this season, tallying 148 yards and a pair of scores. If Walton saw what Nebraska’ Tre Bryant did to Arkansas State (192 yards, 1 score), then he’s likely licking his chops.
Edwards (Jr., 6-5 212), the transfer from Arkansas, recorded a 100 yard, one score game against Nebraska’s much-better-than-average secondary. Miami starts a set of big corners – Dee Delaney (6-1 236) and Michael Jackson (6-1 200). But Edwards is a big and fast dude. Combined with Omar Bayless (6-3) and Justin McInnis (6-6), the Red Wolves have the personnel to outreach their opponents.
QBs Justice Hansen vs. Malik Rossier
After a prolonged off season battle, Rossier (Jr., 6-1 216) emerged as the starter and replacement for NFL bound Brad Kaaya. Rossier was efficient in the opener against Bethune-Cookman, throwing three touchdowns inside of 217 yards throwing. What makes Rossier dangerous is his wheels. The mobile QB added 40 yards on the ground last Saturday, and that will keep Red Wolves linebackers on their toes.
Hansen (Jr., 6-4 207) isn’t the runner Rossier is, but he certainly performed well against much stiffer competition on Saturday. Hansen threw for 415 yards and 3 TDs against Nebraska, negating the pass rush with short and mid-range passes to his big wide receivers. Hansen looked poised in the pocket on Saturday behind a better-than-expected offensive line. Let’s see if Hansen can duplicate his performance in Week 2.
Red Wolves Defensive Line vs. Miami’s Offensive Line
Miami’s offensive line is, uh, “roamy in the hips” with everyone on the line weighing more than 300 lbs, including tank-like specimen Navaughn Donaldson (Fr., 6-6 350). Not only did the Hurricane line allow Mark Walton to run all over Bethune-Cookman, it kept Rossier upright all game long.
Meanwhile, the Red Wolves defense only registered one sack against the Cornhuskers, but the squad kept up the pressure all night, recording 5 TFLs and collecting a safety. The Sun Belt sack leader, Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, was kept quiet in Week One. Will the Sack Monster wake up for the Hurricanes?
Can the Red Wolves learn anything from Miami’s 41-13 victory of Bethune-Cookman?
Not really. Miami had the look of a team working out kinks on Saturday. Will the Hurricanes treat the Red Wolves as a tune up for their upcoming tilt with Florida State? Miami head coach Mark Richt isn’t making that mistake:
“If anybody thinks about FSU, we’ll be a sad bunch of football players and coaches. We play an excellent team this week, and that’s who we’re going to focus on right now.’’
Presumably, that “excellent team” is Arkansas State.
How Arkansas State wins this game.
Usually, the prescription for victory for these kind of games is “limit mistakes” and “play within yourself,” but the Red Wolves will have to take chances to win. Arkansas State is feeling pretty confident after its solid performance in Lincoln. Ride that moxie-wave all the way to a W.
Why Miami rolls.
Miami is bigger and more athletic than Nebraska. Also, they’re the 16th ranked team in the nation. The strangeness of the venue isn’t going to effect the Hurricanes, who visited Appalachian State last season and destroyed the Mountaineers 45-10. This is just a business trip for Mark Richt.
The Hurricanes will most likely attempt to take the Red Wolves fans out of the game by striking early. That worked well against Appalachian State, who surrendered 21 first quarter points to Miami. If Arkansas State can employ its “bend-don’t-break” defense to limit Walton’s damage, if Hansen can mix some big passes with his high-percentage shots, and if the Red Wolves can get something more out of its running game, then Arkansas State has a good chance to make history in Jonesboro.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.