Red Wolves 2018 Wrap Up: Judgement Time

Red Wolves 2018 Wrap Up: Judgement Time

Arkansas State

Red Wolves 2018 Wrap Up: Judgement Time

Arkansas State Red Wolves 2018 Wrap Up: Judgement Time


This will not be another article besmirching the 2018 Red Wolves. This will not be another article besmirching the 2018 Red Wolves. This will not be another article besmirching the 2018 Red Wolves. This will not be another article besmirching the 2018 Red Wolves. 


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The Houston Cougars went 8-5 in 2018, and their reaction was to fire Major Applewhite and poach Dana Holgorsen from West Virginia. Getting thoroughly destroyed 70-14 by Army at the Armed Forces Bowl probably played a part in that decision.

Or maybe it was something else. Three seasons ago, the Cougars went 13-1 and beat Florida State in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Subsequently, the Big XII included Houston in its embarrassing snipe hunt while the American invented “P6” to deepen the illusion of grandeur. Since then, the Cougs have notched nine, seven and eight win seasons which isn’t bad.

It’s just not the stuff of Peach Bowls. Which takes us 560 miles north to Jonesboro, Arkansas, where the Red Wolves have also notched an 8-5 season with a disappointing bowl loss. The Sun Belt doesn’t call itself the sixth power conference, but the Red Wolves were picked to not only win the Sun Belt West, but win the Sun Belt outright. Neither happened. Will Arkansas State react drastically, like the Cougars?

Like Houston, Arkansas State is a creature tortured by its own success

Since 2011, the Red Wolves have accrued five conference titles – a fact we like to relay whenever the occasion merits it. We’re also very fond of this image:

Kings get rings, yo

Fan standards have inflated significantly, and frankly, so has the administration’s. Since Hugh Freeze led the Red Wolves to its first ten-win season, the program has shoveled cash into facilities and staff. Centennial Bank Stadium has a club level now. And a party end zone where season ticket holders can buy a beer. And water features! All to soon be accompanied by a new locker room and training facility to compliment the new indoor facility. It’s all very championship-level.

Now anything less than championship play feels as fitting as a cummerbund at Walmart.

Yeah, 2018 wasn’t great

The season began well and good – with the end of a terrible OOC curse. Before 2018, the Red Wolves were flat miserable out-of-conference. And while few will declare Tulsa and UNLV signature victories, it was refreshing not to begin conference play 1-3 (or worse, 0-4).

Then something Bizarro-world happened: the Red Wolves struggled in-conference, beginning with a tough 28-21 road loss to resurgent Georgia Southern. The season further deteriorated after an embarrassing 35-9 effort at home to Appalachian State – a performance immortalized on national TV, water features and all.

But hopes for a championship were lost in Lafayette, when the Red Wolves  had nothing to stop the Cajun’s run-hungry offense. At 1-3, it was the worst conference start for the program since 2009.

The Red Wolves kept the season interesting by beating-up the Sun Belt Basement, but in the end, it would be those damn Cajuns who would rep the Sun Belt West in the first conference championship game. However, at least Arkansas State would enter it’s bowl game with momentum! The offense was pounding in 35 points per game, and the defense was impregnable. Assigned to the Arizona Bowl, the matchup with Nevada looked entertaining.

Red Wolves would lose 16-13, gaining only seven points in five trips to the Red Zone. Arkansas State  finished the season without a win over a team with a winning record.

But was 2018 really that terrible?

Stacked against the expectations, yes. Put up against reality, not so much. Look at the losses. Alabama is about to win a national championship. The Eagles and Cajuns were both on the road. And that Mountaineers team might be the best Boone has ever fielded. And the loss to Nevada? Fluke bowl result.
The losses, as tough as they were to swallow, all came to quality opponents (say what you will about The Cajuns and Wolf Pack). The OOC wins weren’t spectacular, but they did come at the expense of the AAC and Mountain West, which style themselves as superior conferences.
We saw great individual performances, too. The rise of Marcel Murray. The chilling dominance of Justice Hansen. Ronheen Bingham’s reign of quarterback terror. Cody Grace and the punting unit produced a NCAA record -15 yards per return. This team had its heroes.
Let’s look at this season in the way Houston could not: eight wins and another bowl appearance is solid work.
Maybe not championship work, but solid nonetheless.

 

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. 

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