Make or Break: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane
After two games, we still haven’t a clue just what the Red Wolves are capable of. The game with the Golden Hurricane will reveal all.
If you want to get a Red Wolves’ fan grousing, just bring up Arkansas State’s out-of-conference record. Why? Because it’s abysmal. It’s an abomination; college football’s great mistake. A pox upon Northeast Arkansas. A stain on the very fabric of humanity. It’s a big, brown bag of baboon boogers.
Since 1992, Arkansas State is 45-112-1 against out-of-conference opponents – a miserable .401 winning percentage. Take out the FCS wins, and the Red Wolves are a vomit-inducing 16-100-1. Sixteen wins over OOC FBS opponents in 26 seasons! Are you kidding me? You can thank the relentless Kara Richey for assembling all this horrible news
Perhaps, at last, you understand the teeth gnashing Weltschmerz of Red Wolves fans. And now we head into a road game with Tulsa – a program that went 2-10 last season. Despite the opponent’s recent record, Red Wolves fans are approaching this game with nearly apocalyptic apprehension. Because let’s face it – the Red Wolves have looked terrible on the road against G5 teams not in the Sun Belt.
Last season, Arkansas State was donkey-kicked by SMU 44-21
In 2016, the Red Wolves looked awful against Utah State 34-20
In 2015, Toledo manhandled A-State 37-7.
Since 1992, Arkansas State has 80 losses and 4 wins (and one tie) against FBS programs on the road. Eighty losses. The last time the Red Wolves won on the road out of conference was in 2008 – against Texas A&M.
So yeah, Red Wolves fans are ready to see something different.
Who are these Golden Hurricane?
In 2016, Tulsa was a ten-win team. The next year, the Golden Hurricane were a two-win team. Are the Golden Hurricane better than 2-10? Yeah, probably. One of those wins came against Houston. The other came at the expense of the Ragin’ Cajuns (which is a little unnerving).
Furthermore, Tulsa has shown signs of being better-than-advertised in 2018, having already dispatched one Arkansas program (UCA) and falling just a TD short to Texas last week. Sophomore running back Shamari Brooks (5-9 193) has a pair of TDs in both games, and the defense has gobbled up three fumbles and is giving up a very okay 362 yards per game.
But all is not optimal. Tulsa sophomore QB Luke Skipper (6-2 211) isn’t exactly dominating the gridiron – just 3 touchdowns against two picks. But he’s completing about 56% of his passes and he scrambled for 54 yards against the Longhorns. Senior wide receiver Justin Hobbs (6-4 230) is a physical specimen, but Texas limited him to two receptions for 13 yards on Saturday.
One wonders if the Skipper-to-Hobbs connection is simply waiting for the right secondary to exploit.
Alabama thoughtfully revealed the Red Wolves’ weakness(es)
Tulsa ain’t Alabama, and Luke Skipper isn’t Tua Tagovailoa. But if Golden Hurricane head coach Phillip Montgomery watched his opponent’s game film this week, he saw Tagovailoa toss several touchdown passes to comically wide-open receivers on Saturday. True, the Red Wolves were 100% invested in attacking the passer. But the broken coverage, even against the might of Alabama, was alarming to see.
Also to consider; the Red Wolves lack of depth at linebacker. Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts both found running space in the flat once the Red Wolves linebackers became occupied. If Skipper can’t find Hobbs or his leading receiver Keenan Johnson (6-1 200), he might find ways to collect yards on the ground.
Alabama also revealed the Red Wolves’ secret strengths
What positives can you extrapolate from a 57-7 blistering from Alabama? After the first thirteen points, the Red Wolves played fairly competent pigskin (two goal line false starts notwithstanding). The defensive line played physical, and the offensive line gave the law firm of Wand, Weh-Weh and Murray plenty of running room. In fact, the Red Wolves ran the ball more effectively against Alabama (5.6 YPR) than it did at home against SEMO (4.6 YPR). That’s cool.
Tulsa doesn’t get to the QB much, and that’s great news
The Red Wolves offensive line wasn’t bad against the Alabama pass rush, but quarterback Justice Hansen didn’t have much time to throw downfield, and he often chose lateral options instead.
Meanwhile, Tulsa has one sack on the season and only a handful of TFLs. More comfort for Hansen, the Golden Hurricane have yet to pick a pass. This plays well into Blake Anderson’s offense, which relies on spreading the pill among a multitude of highly-skilled receivers. Justice Hansen should rebound nicely against Tulsa.
The Red Wolves need to start strong
In recent seasons, the Red Wolves have dug their holes early on the road, usually resulting in frustration and personal fouls. What Blake Anderson needs is to put his foot on the gas early to build confidence – and then keep that pedal pressed.
Tulsa seems willing to oblige this strategy, having given up a 13-7 first quarter lead to UCA in Week 1 and a 14-0 first quarter lead to Texas on Saturday.
Everybody is (mostly) uninjured
The Red Wolves escaped largely unscathed against the Crimson Brutes, with the exception of standout safety BJ Edmonds, who’s been seen hobbling around the practice sideline in a walking boot. Coach Anderson said he thinks we’ll see Edmonds suit up for Tulsa, which would be super considering the secondary needs every playmaker it can get.
So, uh, this is it, guys
Athletic director Terry Mohajir has long stated that the goal of Arkansas State is to be the best Group of Five program in the nation – a sentiment echoed in various degrees by Coach Anderson. If this goal is to ever see fruition, it needs to start very soon, preferably with Tulsa.
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.