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September 15, 2010North Carolina.
Through the first two weeks of the Division I football season, that's the only team in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision that has rushed for fewer yards.
The Red Wolves are averaging a meek 30.5 yards on the ground through their first two games, and rank 119th among the 120 FBS teams.
Such quiet statistics stem from two major causes. First, Arkansas State is trying to replace Reggie Arnold, who concluded his collegiate career with more than 4,000 rushing yards. Second, the Red Wolves have gone to a different offensive scheme. Coordinator Hugh Freeze uses an up-tempo spread attack that greatly emphasizes the passing game. The inordinate number of passing plays also increases the chances for sacks, which diminishes net rushing totals for the team.
However, there's no disputing that Arkansas State wants that spread to at least be multi-dimensional and be capable of running the football.
Still, it is difficult to put a happy face on the Red Wolves' rushing performance in last week's 31-24 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, which consisted of 18 net yards on 19 rushes.
"We've got to be able to run the football better," coach Steve Roberts said. "The two teams we played had game-planned to force us to throw the football. That was Lafayette's plan coming in, making us throw the football and not use many runs. They did a great job with that. We don't want to be stupid and run into numbers, but we have to find a way to run the football better."
This week's opponent, Lousiana-Monroe, will provide another tough challenge. The Warhawks allowed just nine running plays that netted 20 or more yards last season and held Arkansas under its rushing average in a loss to the Razorbacks last week.
• QB Ryan Aplin was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 438 yards in the 31-24 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette and setting an Arkansas State single-game record for passing yards. Aplin's total also matched the performance tallied by UCF's Daunte Culpepper in 1998 for the most yardage thrown for in a single game at Cajun Field.
• Arkansas State ranks third in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards, throwing for 380.5 per game.
• The home team in the series between Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State has won the past five meetings, and ASU hasn't lost to the Warhawks at home since a 16-7 defeat during the 2001 season.
Series History: Arkansas State leads 17-14 (last meeting, 2009, 16-10 Louisiana-Monroe).
Scouting The Offense: Aplin is flourishing in the up-tempo no-huddle offense that Hugh Freeze has brought to Jonesboro. WRs Allen Muse and Dwayne Frampton both have made a boatload of plays through the first two games. The rushing game remains nonexistent.
Scouting The Defense: The Red Wolves have forged a reputation for being one of the Sun Belt's better defensive teams during Steve Roberts' tenure as coach, but through two games against non-conference opponents, ASU has one of the worst defenses in the entire FBS. Arkansas State ranks dead-last in rushing defense (304.5 yards per game), 118th in total yards allowed (532 ypg) and 116th in scoring defense (41.5 ppg).
Quote To Note: "Personally, I take a lot of blame for it today. I don't know if I wasn't hydrated enough or what. My legs just weren't under me today. At halftime I had full body cramps. I just feel like I let down my team today."-RB Derek Lawson on Arkansas State's 18-yard rushing performance in the 31-24 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, played at Cajun Field where there was a 101-degree heat index.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State, Sept. 18-The Red Wolves (0-2, 0-1) head into their home opener desperately seeking a positive finish. Arkansas State's next game is against defending conference champion Troy, so if ASU can't take care of business this week, there is a very strong possibility the Red Wolves get off to an 0-3 start in league play.
Keys To The Game: Do what works. It will be very difficult for Arkansas State to improve its dismal performance running the football, averaging 30.5 rushing yards through two games played, and Louisiana-Monroe was very good against the run last season and decent against Arkansas in its season opener. The passing offense is clicking right now, so ASU should air it out-provided QB Ryan Aplin gets good pass protection.
Players To Watch:
CB M.D. Jennings-The Sun Belt defensive player of the week after the first round of games, Jennings and his fellow defensive backs must be disciplined going against Monroe WR Luther Ambrose, a speedster who finished third in the 100 meter dash at the NCAA track championships.
QB Ryan Aplin-It's hard to argue with Aplin's success throwing the football through the first two games of the season. The promising signal caller is probably the most valuable player on the team right now.
RB Derek Lawson-The most seasoned ball carrier on the team, Lawson has to raise his game, not to replace former 4,000-yard rusher Reggie Arnold, but just to help give Arkansas State a running offense that's at least competent.
• WR Allen Muse has made a catch for 33 yards in both games played this season.
• DL Amos Draper had a career-high five tackles, with a forced fumble, a sack, two tackles for loss and a blocked field goal.
• P Dean Gericke, just a sophomore, had a 64-yard punt in the loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
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