ASU prepares for Troy

JONESBORO (9/23/09) - Arkansas State, which hosts Troy Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in both team's Sun Belt Conference opener, held its weekly football press conference with head coach Steve Roberts Wednesday at the ASU Football Facility.  Coach Roberts discussed this week's opponent, the series between the two teams and an exciting atmosphere expected at ASU Stadium for the game.

Saturday's game pits the league's two preseason favorites against one another in an early-season showdown and is one of the marquee Sun Belt Conference match-ups of the 2009 season.  The Red Wolves bring a 1-1 record and the Trojans a 1-2 mark into the contest.  The Red Wolves are 1-0 at home this season with a 61-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State in their season opener, while the Trojans bring an 0-2 road record into the game after dropping their first two outings at Bowling Green and No. 1 Florida.  ASU, coming off its first of two open weeks, dropped a 38-9 decision at then-ranked No. 18 Nebraska last time out, while Troy defeated UAB 27-14 last week.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2009


This is obviously a big game coming up this week.  We've had a good off week and a great week this week in preparation for the game.  We are certainly looking forward to a tremendous environment with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement.  We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us, facing a very good Troy Trojan football team.  Very impressed, obviously, with Coach Blakeney and his staff and what they have been able to accomplish at Troy.  They're as good as they've been in the past.  It should be a great environment, great energy, great enthusiasm, and hopefully it'll be a great game as well.

They're led by a senior quarterback offensively in Levi Brown, 6'4", and he got a lot of successful experience last year.  He has all the throws, he plays within the offense, distributes the ball very well, and then you can just really take your pick when you talk about all the skill positions.  They have a very good running back in Harris. At wide receiver they just roll them in and out.  They all can run, they all have the ability to make a big play, and it'll be a tremendous task.  Obviously Jernigan, a guy from last year that we're very familiar with, and Gill have had a very productive start to the season this year.  But again just pick a number, I don't know how many guys have caught balls for them, but I know it's a bunch.  Offensive-line wise, they lost both of their tackles from last year, but have that interior part of their offensive line back.  They're doing a great job of protecting their quarterback.

They distribute the ball around very, very well.  They do a lot of things tempo wise that can cause you a lot of concern.  It's very tough to prepare for, very tough to practice against.  When they just go normal tempo, then they go a check with me tempo where they hurry to the line of scrimmage and check to the sideline and try to get you to show your look so they can get In a good play call, then they go Indy tempo which is full speed, as soon as the ball is marked they're ready for play - they're snapping the ball.

A big concern for us defensively is getting everything communicated and making sure we're in position to make the calls, to make the adjustments in the tempo and challenge throws down the field.  It'll be a tremendous task.

Defensively, pretty much everything starts up front.  They have two all-conference defensive ends coming back, very good players, Sheffield and Lang speed across the front.  They have two all-conference linebackers back in Boris Lee and Bear Woods.  They did have to replace quite a bit in their secondary, but as I said, things start up front with them and they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback.  They do some movement, some zone blitzes, just try to keep you off balance, and again, just like offensively for them, speed is the name of the game.  Everybody on defense can run.

In special teams they do a great job of punting the football getting the ball on the ground.  They've cashed in on a lot of rolls.  They had one last week that he punted from inside his own end zone that hit about the 40 and rolled to the 29.  We don't want to take chances where we don't get possession of the football, but we've got to do a great job of trying to minimize the roll.  They do a great job in their coverage and their return, so it will be great task special teams wise for us as well.

They're quarterback is very good and very accurate.  He has the arm strength to throw it down the field, but he is not afraid to throw underneath and put it in the hands of those skill guys and let them make things happen.  He is mobile, they don't call on him to run a whole lot, but he is very mobile and can escape pressure and make something happen.  This matchup is one with two of the league's best quarterbacks.    There receivers are very fast and they get them out in space a lot.

Their corners have great speed.  When you beat them, they have great speed to recover.  You can see their improvement between game one and game three.  All four of their defensive lineman are very tough.  They don't stay blocked.  The speed and finesse they have up front is obviously a concern.  We will have to see how they are going to play us.  We've gone quite a bit good-on-good trying to assimilate that speed of their defense.  I think our crowd with their excitement will help us.

This series is always a challenge.  Our two teams are pretty evenly matched.  Last week their quarterback threw for over 400 yards so he looked pretty good.  Continuity has been a very big part in their success. I think they have planned very well in transitions.  Their first year of Division-I, they had over 25 fifth-year seniors.  They are in a great recruiting area.  They are very consistent competitors.

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