Arkansas State football will attempt to bounce back this week against UNLV following a tough 37-30 loss to SMU this past Saturday.
Interim head coach David Duggan said the Red Wolves are looking to move forward following the SMU loss.
“We are looking forward to rebounding after a tough loss in an emotional time for our team last week,” said Duggan. “We had an opportunity to make some plays that we didn’t capitalize on. We had a lot of first game mistakes.”
The Rebels are a run first team that can post problems for the defense with their option-style offense, and Duggan knows his team has a challenge coming up in Las Vegas this Saturday.
“You can’t turn back the hands of time, so we have to look forward to (this) week against a good UNLV opponent,” Duggan said. “Obviously they have an extremely mobile quarterback and return a lot of starters on their offensive and defensive fronts, so it is going to be a big challenge for our team.”
The Rebels running attack begins with quarterback Armani Rogers, who had 11 carries for 114 yards and two touchdowns in a win Saturday over Southern Utah. The Red Wolves will have to slow him down in order to have a shot to win the game.
“You have got to make sure that we are assignment sound,” Duggan said. “Anytime you run the quarterback you have to make sure you are accounting for that threat. You have the phases of the quarterback coverage as well as the pitch phase. It is almost an option-style defense, and we’ve got to make sure everybody knows where their assignment is. Also, depth to your defense is created by backside pursuit and we have to have great backside pursuit because he makes a lot of guys’ miss tackles. He is so big and strong and extremely athletic, so we have to have a great effort to slow him down this week.”
The A-State offense had several chances to take the game over against SMU last week but mistakes proved costly. A big emphasis will be put on correcting those mistakes this week, and a mistake-free game will be needed in order to earn a victory against UNLV.
“I think we have just got to play fast and physical like we want to play, but we have to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” Duggan said. “When you look at Saturday, we had a couple of opportunities to sustain drives in third down situations, and we jump offsides. We had really manageable numbers on third down, and we jump offsides and it creates a third and longer situation. We have got to make sure we are not turning the football over, and we have got to make sure we are getting as many explosive plays that change football games. I think the biggest thing is we have got to stop the self-inflicting opportunities that presented themselves on Saturday that were stopping guys.”
Starting wide receiver Kirk Merritt took a nasty hit while attempting to catch a pass early in the game against SMU that required the medical staff to take some extra time with him on the field before he was removed from the game. Duggan said that Merritt is in concussion protocol following the violent hit.
“Kirk is day to day right now,” Duggan said. “I just saw Kirk and he looked like he is in great shape, but in concussion protocol he gets evaluated every day. He is going to be day-to-day probably this whole week, but we are optimistic.”
Duggan also said that he is still not aware how long it will be before head coach Blake Anderson returns to the team.
“One of the things that is important to Coach Anderson is his immediate family, but I also think he knows that his football family is important,” said Duggan. “He is taking care of his family first, and when he feels comfortable that they are set, then he wants to get back as soon as possible. Our team respects his decision to be with his immediate family, and are ready to hold down the fort until he returns.”
Duggan said that it is his assumption that he will continue to lead the team this week at UNLV.
“Yes, until Coach Anderson gives me notice otherwise, that is my approach,” Duggan said.
Kickoff for Arkansas State at UNLV is scheduled for 9 p.m. CST live from Sam Boyd Stadium in Law Vegas, Nevada.