This past weekend the Red Wolves fell to 1-2 after losing 42-13 to Nebraska. The offense failed to put the ball in the end zone and the only thing the defense did well was force fumbles. Much like the Oregon game, Nebraska took an early lead and shifted into cruise control. Add to that a less than stellar victory against Memphis and many ASU fans are wondering just how good is this team.
What’s Good? – The Running Game
Arkansas State ranks 24th in the nation in rushing offense averaging 230.33 yards per game. David Oku is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and leads the team with 236 rushing yards. Frankie Jackson and Ryan Aplin are both averating over 4 yards per carry and have combined for 270 yards. Even defensive back (Yes, I said DEFENSIVE back) Rocky Hayes has racked up 115 yards on just 10 carries.
Malzahn has shown he is committed to running the ball. His Red Wolves rank 25th in rushing attempts and is spreading the ball around with 8 different players having at least one rushing attempt.
What’s Mediocre? – Ryan Aplin’s Passing
Last year’s Sun Belt Player of The Year hasn’t been the Ryan Aplin that ASU fans have come to expect. Through three games Aplin has a 58.1% completion percentage. The last time Aplin had a three game completion percentage this low was early in the 2010 season. It’s not all bad for Aplin. He’s had two 300+ passing yard games and is averaging 248 passing yards a game. He’s also got 4 touchdowns to only 1 interception. If Aplin can get his completion percentage above 60% he should be alright and the yardage – td/int ratio will look even better.
The 1st Quarter
Arkansas State has been outscored 49-3 in the 1st quarter this year. Oregon was up 28-0 in the first fifteen minutes. During that game ASU’s drives in the 1st quarter ended in Punt, Fumble & Punt. Memphis only held a 7-3 lead with ASU going Field Goal, Punt & Punt on their 1st quarter drives. Nebraska held a 14-0 lead with ASU putting up a Turnover On Downs, Interception & Punt with their 1st quarter drives. It’s hard for anyone to win with starts that bad.
The Red Wolves have played a total of 180 minutes of football so far this year. They’ve only held a lead for 10 minutes and 27 seconds. That means they’ve only had the lead for 5% of the time this year. Memphis is the only game they actually held a lead.
ASU has lost 4 fumbles this year which ranks them 95th in the nation. To put that in perspective, only 16 teams have lost more fumbles than ASU. Don’t forget the blocked punt returned for a touchdown (one of only 13 teams to have a punt returned/blocked for a touchdown). And throw in 2 interceptions just for good measure.
Just Growing Pains?
Don’t forget this team lost a lot on defense and has a new, young coaching staff. As much as Malzahn has been hyped as an offensive genius, let’s not forget this is first year as a head coach. He’s got a few pieces that need to be put together, but how quickly it can be done is a big unknown. With one more game before conference play starts, Astate fans are hoping it’s real soon.