Game one is in the books and the Alabama Crimson Tide did exactly as expected and dominated the Louisville Cardinals in Orlando on Saturday night. There were some who believed Alabama would continue from where they left off in 2017. With some unknowns going into the game, there were also some who weren’t completely sold on Alabama because of the coaching and player turnover. Everyone is sold on them now as the Crimson Tide left no doubt in anyone’s mind by routing the Cardinals 51-14. With the season opener in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to look at the Arkansas State Red Wolves in this week’s edition of Alabama Crimson Tide: Know Your Foe.
Alabama Crimson Tide: Know Your Foe – Arkansas State Edition
Arkansas State University, located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, is the home of the Red Wolves and was once home to some coaches that are well-known in the state of Alabama: Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn. Arkansas State has some big wins in their history. In 2008, after changing their mascot from the Indians to the Red Wolves, they defeated Texas A&M in their new mascot’s debut game. As a member of the Sun Belt Conference, the Red Wolves are a perennial bowl team. In fact, they’ve appeared in seven straight bowl games. the Red Wolves have won at least seven games a season over that span. Arkansas State’s 2016 Cure Bowl win represents the most recent loss for the UCF Golden Knights.
As the fifth-year head coach of the Red Wolves, Blake Anderson, enters the toughest game of the season, there are many things to consider. Despite a decisive win Saturday over the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks, Arkansas State realizes that they aren’t playing another FCS school on their home field. They’re playing the defending national champions in Bryant-Denny Stadium and that is a tough enough task in itself.
Red Wolves’ Offense
The Arkansas State offense looked crisp against Southeast Missouri State on Saturday in their 48-21 win. Here’s what the Alabama Crimson Tide will face when Arkansas State enters Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Justice Hansen, a 6’ 4”, 218-pound, senior from Edmond Santa Fe High School originally committed to play at the University of Oklahoma in 2014. After redshirting his freshman year, he transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas where he played nine games. During that season he threw for 1,694 yards and 12 touchdowns. ]
He then transferred to Arkansas State and took over as the starter in the second game of the 2016 season. That year he threw for 2,719 yards and 19 touchdowns. In 2017, he added 3,967 yards and 37 touchdowns and was selected as the Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year. In the 2018 season opener against Southeastern Missouri State, he completed 26 of 36 passes for 423 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed five times for 31 yards.
Hansen is the key to any success the Red Wolves hope to have against the Alabama defense.
Marcel Murray, a true freshman from Hiram, Georgia, comes in at 5’11” and 196 pounds and had a good debut as he rushed for 54 yards on 10 carries. Murray also led the team in receiving yards with 75 yards on two receptions and one receiving touchdown.
Armond Weh-Weh got the majority of the carries last Saturday. He’s a 6’, 211-pound redshirt senior from Houston, Texas. Weh-Weh had originally signed with the Texas Tech Red Raiders before heading to Scottsdale Community College. There he rushed 153 times for 1,229 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2016, he transferred to Arkansas State and suffered a season-ending injury in the second game against Auburn. In 2017, he only played in the first two games and was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in 2018. Against the Redhawks, Weh-Weh rushed 12 times for 50 yards.
Receivers and Tight Ends
Javonis Isaac is a 6’2”, 248-pound redshirt sophomore tight end from Acadiana High School in Lafayette, Louisiana. In 2017 he saw action in 10 games, but only had one reception for 10 yards. Against Southeastern Missouri State on Saturday, he hauled in two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Omar Bayless, a 6’3”, 207-pound wide receiver from Laurel, Mississippi is entering his Junior season with the Red Wolves. In 2016 he pulled in 13 receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown and improved on those numbers in 2017 with 32 receptions, 439 yards and six touchdowns. Against the Redhawks, he only had two receptions for 67 yards and one touchdown.
Kirk Merritt is a 6’, 215-pound wide receiver from Destrehan, Louisiana. He played one season at Oregon, one season at Texas A&M (where he got into trouble for indecent exposure), one season at East Mississippi Community College and now finds himself playing for Arkansas State. It is worth noting that while at EMCC, he helped lead the team to the 2017 NJCAA national championship and an impressive 11-1 season. He led the team with 52 receptions for 628 yards and four touchdowns. Against Southeastern Missouri State, he pulled in five receptions for 55 yards.
Others making an impact were:
Kendrick Edwards – 3 rec, 50 yds, 1 TD
Justin McInnis – 4 rec, 48 yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Adams, Jr. – 2 rec, 46 yds, 1 TD
Dahu Green – 2 rec, 23 yds
Bubba Ogbebor – 2 rec, 15 yds, 1 TD
Brandon Bowling – 2 rec, 13 yds
Red Wolves Defense
The Arkansas State defense was equally impressive as they were able to hold Southeastern Missouri State to only 21 points on 163 passing yards and 122 rushing yards. They recorded three sacks as well. Here is a brief look at the top contributors on defense:
- B.J. Edmonds had four tackles
- Tajhea Chambers had three tackles and three assists
- Justin Clifton also had three tackles and three assists
- Nathan Page had three tackles
- Dajon Emory had two tackles
- Darreon Jackson had two tackles and three assists
- Jeremy Smith had two tackles and one assist
There is not one “standout player” on this Red Wolves defense. They rely on a combined effort from the entire team to make things happen on the field. Alabama will have to play disciplined assignment football on offense to keep drives going on Saturday.
Wrap Up and Prediction
Arkansas State played very well against Southeast Missouri, but they are obviously playing a far more athletic and talented in Alabama. The Crimson Tide handled Louisville easily and this week will be more of the same. These games are good for both schools, though. They give teams like Arkansas State a chance to measure themselves against a major opponent, plus make some money for their school. Teams like Alabama get a chance to work on some fundamentals, rest some of their main players, and nurse some injuries.
Although this game will be a blowout from the beginning, don’t look for head coach Nick Saban to run the score up. He has more class than that. Alabama wins easily, 52-3.
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