“Mean Machine! Mean Machine!” Arkansas State Red Wolves take on Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday in Tuscaloosa
The Red Wolves will need to channel their inner Paul Crew this weekend.
The passing of the legendary Burt Reynolds had me thinking of my favorite Burt movie, “The Longest Yard.” Reynolds plays former NFL quarterback Paul Crew, who somehow winds up in a Georgia state prison and is railroaded into leading a team of convicts to play a semi-pro football team comprised of the prison’s beefy guards.
The Red Wolves game with Alabama had me recalling one of the movie’s more memorable exchanges. Crew and his assistant coach, Nate Scarboro, are putting together a game plan. Scarboro is hopeful, but he knows the convicts will need more playmakers to win.
“Win?” says Crew incredulously. “Who’s talking anything about winning? I just want to survive!”
Survival seems to be theme among some Red Wolves fans, who view the game with Alabama as an exercise in avoiding injury. Who can blame them? Alabama is the #1 team in the country comprised almost exclusively of four and five star athletes in training for an NFL career. Their offensive linemen weigh as much as Pontiac Sunbirds. Their running backs work as tank barricades in the off season. Nick Saban begins each morning eating a raw human heart. Forget about avoiding injury. The Red Wolves should focus on dodging Mr. Death!
Count me out of that loser mentality! Channeling the gee-whiz spirit of Nate Scarboro (Jeremy Jonesboro?), I maintain that the Red Wolves aren’t in this game to survive, but to pick up the damn W.
“We’re gettin’ up a football game against the guards. Wondered if maybe you and some of your buddies here would like to join in on the fun.”
It’s not often that Arkansas State gets a crack at the wardens of college football. In fact, it’s happened only twice: the first time was 1982, when the legendary Larry Lacewell fell to Bear Bryant 34-7. Twenty-six years later, Arkansas State would return to Tuscaloosa only to be rudely judo-slammed 35-0.
Sure, Alabama has seen its share of fire. But not this sweet Red Wolves heat! Arkansas State has assembled one of its most talented teams ever in 2018 – including a receiving squad that feels it stacks up to anyone in the nation.
The Red Wolves have the talent to back up the moxie. But does it have enough talent?
“The most important thing to remember is: to protect your quarterback – ME!”
For the Red Wolves to have even a remote shot at beating the guards, the offensive line will need to keep Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen out of an ambulance. Hansen was dynamite against Southeast Missouri State on Saturday, spreading six touchdown to six different receivers on 26/36 passing. They don’t call him Heisman Hansen for nothing.
Hansen was successful due in large part to the offensive line, who didn’t surrender a single sack. The Red Wolves lugs are big dudes, anchored by Sun Belt preseason first-teamer Lanard Bonner (6-5, 315). But Alabama dumped Louisville’s QB three times on Saturday, and recorded 11 TFLs. The Red Wolves will have to find a way to neutralize All-SEC defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (6-7, 315).
“Nate, if you’re thinking about winning this game, then you’re as crazy as he is.”
If someone predicted a Sun Belt team could upset Alabama, you’d call that someone crazy. But ULM did just that in 2007, so a Red Wolves victory would not be without precedent.
The Warhawks won that game with defense, limiting the Crimson Tide to a pair of scores to hand Nick Saban a 21-14 loss. Arkansas State will rely heavily on its defense on Saturday, using its deep defensive line to put pressure on starting QB Tua Tagovailoa (6-1, 218), harassing the sophomore before he has a chance to connect with Alabama’s monster wide receivers.
But Ronheen Bingham and the Red Wolves defensive line can’t do it alone. Coach Blake Anderson will need a Herculean effort from his corners and safeties to put a stop to Jerry Jeudy (6-1, 192) and DeVonte Smith (6-1, 173).
Oh yeah, and somebody’s gonna have to stop Alabama’s run, too.
“For Nate, for Granny… for Caretaker.”
The Red Wolves aren’t just battling the guards for themselves; they’re taking on The Man who has incarcerated the majority of college football in a prison of our own self-doubt. In the worlds of the immortal Nat Scarboro: “You’ve only got two things left they can’t sweat out of you or beat out of you…your balls.”
Long live our balls.
Arkansas State Red Wolves @ #1 Alabama, 2:30 PM on ESPN2 at Bryan-Denny Stadium
(Red Wolves +36.5, 1.4% FPI and two balls)
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.