The 2019 Season is a Triumph for the Arkansas State Red Wolves
No matter what happens against South Alabama on Saturday, this season was special. Here’s why:
The Red Wolves enter the last game of the 2019 regular season 7-4 and eliminated from the divisional title. By recent standards, the record alone rates a C+. And yet, the season is a triumph. A monument to perseverance. A benchmark for future Red Wolves teams to follow. Why?
Consider, the Red Wolves have won seven games despite:
- Losing Wendy Anderson to cancer
- Losing two Sun Belt All-Conference First Team defenders for the season
- Losing a starting QB who was having a break-out season
- Losing 10 players to season-ending injuries, including Ryan Graham (RB), Isaiah Azubuike (RB), Logan Bonner (QB), Forrest Merrill (DL), Hunter Moreton (DL), Jerry Jacobs (CB), Tony Adams (DL) and Thomas Toki (DL)
Consider what the Red Wolves have gained along with those seven victories:
- A wide receiver who leads the nation in yards and TDs and is a Biletnikoff Award semi-finalist
- A freshman QB who stepped into the starting roll without blinking
- A wide receiver squad featuring three of the top five pass catchers in the Sun Belt
- A 9th consecutive year of bowl eligibility
The obstacle-to-achievement ratio is extraordinary. The Red Wolves passing attack is ranked 15th in the nation without the services of Dahu Green. Step-in quarterback Layne Hatcher ranks third in the Sun Belt for passing yards and second for TDs despite having only seven starts. Omar Bayless, he who leads the nation in receiving, also leads the nation in blocked punts. Even with a decimated defense, William Bradley-King leads the Sun Belt in sacks. Darreon Jackson leads the Sun Belt in tackles.
This is a team that was two special-team snafus from defeating a nationally ranked SMU. This is a team that could have crumbled when struggling against Coastal Carolina and still gritted out a win. This is a team that put the brakes on Georgia Southern’s triple option, and this is the team that flew into Las Vegas and stomped UNLV. This is a team that adjusted to an entirely new staff and has now rolled off four straight victories.
Most of all, the enormous weight of Blake Anderson’s trials cannot be understated. If you’re married, imagine plowing through the thankless grind of a college football season under these sad circumstances – and winning. Rather than selling all his worldly possessions and becoming a lumberjack in Alaska, Coach Anderson found solace and strength with his second family – the Red Wolves. We should be grateful and in awe. This season is a triumph for Blake’s courage alone.
Take joy in this season, Red Wolves fans. The team and its coach has earned it.
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.