Sun Belt Showdown: Arkansas State Red Wolves (5-3) vs Texas State Bobcats (2-8)
This game feels eerily familiar.
Dogs @ Cats Pt 2, Saturday November 18th, 2:00 CST at Centennial Bank Stadium, broadcast on ESPN3
The Red Wolves host Texas State this weekend, a contest that usually ends poorly for the Bobcats. At least this year, Texas State is spared the indignity of personally witnessing Arkansas State accept its Sun Belt trophy – a public shaming that has occurred the last two seasons.
Seasonal déjà vu continues to spook the Red Wolves, however. The Bobcats were the subsequent opponent last year when Arkansas State unexpectedly fell to Louisiana, forfeiting a solo run at the Sun Belt title. This year, it’s the Bobcats again, this time after an unexpected Red Wolves’ loss to South Alabama. Last year, A-State rebounded with a 36-14 win. Will history repeat itself on Saturday afternoon?
When last these titans met
The Red Wolves were pretty surly after losing to longtime rival Ragin Cajuns. Warren “Human Mario Kart” Wand scrambled up 135 yards, defensive end Chris Odom tallied 3 sacks, quarterback Justice Hansen tossed a pair of 4th quarter TDs, and Arkansas State buttoned up a share of the Sun Belt title with a 36-14 drumming.
Underestimate the Bobcats at your own peril
Everett Withers and his Bobcats are not having a banner season in San Marcos, but the last three outings have been different for Texas State. The Bobcats collected its first conference win since 2015 against the Chants, then averaged 39 points in losses to New Mexico State and Georgia State. The offensive surge is led by an awakening from Bobcats quarterback Damian Williams, the Mississippi State transfer who seemed more likely to throw a horrible pick than a capable TD pass. But something has clicked with Williams, who for his las three games has thrown for 7 TDs (3 picks) and averaging 301 yards a contest. The Red Wolves secondary should be on its toes.
Red Wolves need to put a cork in the turnovers (and personal fouls)
Justice Hansen delivered four picks to the South Bama Jags, who also grabbed a couple fumbles. It’s nearly impossible to win with six turnovers on the slate, even against competition as uneven as the Jaguars.
You can’t put all the blame on Hansen for the picks. At least two simply bounced off receivers only to land in enemy hands. Coach Blake Anderson also took a measure of responsibility. But the team needs to pick up its focus if we’re to see another Sun Belt championship in Jonesboro. On Saturday, the Red Wolves accrued another ejection resulting from a personal foul. This happens way too often for a team with enough veteran leadership to know better.
Please standby for the following fashion interlude
How can Texas State ruin Arkansas State’s season?
The Red Wolves entered Mobile unprepared for a South Bama team motived by pure pride. The Bobcats can do the same. Williams has found a kindred spirit in wide receiver Elijah King, who has two TDs and a pair of 100+ yards the last two games. Look for Withers to roll with these hot hands, putting pressure on an Arkansas State secondary that is prone to giving up big plays.
If the Bobcats can get something out of its secondary – which has yet to record a single pick on the season – then Texas State has a chance.
What’s essential to a Red Wolves win?
The turnovers are the big issue, but what has troubled the team all season long is the ineffective run game. Warren Wand is back, but he had only limited touches on Saturday. The offensive line has done well protecting Hansen, though he gets sacked often enough. But either the line isn’t creating running lanes, or the RBs are simply not executing. Either way, if the Red Wolves want to avoid meltdown on Saturday, it needs the running game to make a contribution.
Coach Anderson was clearly perturbed by the performance in Mobile, and will find a way to motivate his team against Texas State. Don’t look for Hansen to suddenly become conservative with his passing. He’s too chill to let a bad week bug him. Instead, watch the Red Wolves passing game eat up the Bobcats defense while the monster defense acquires its usual allotment of sacks and picks.
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.