JONESBORO (ASU) – The Arkansas State football team began its on-field preparations for the GoDaddy.com Bowl Saturday morning, holding its first postseason practice since wrapping up its undefeated run through Sun Belt Conference play with a 45-14 victory over Troy a week ago.
Holding a 10-2 record, the Red Wolves will carry a nine-game winning streak, the second longest in the nation, into its first bowl game appearance since the 2005 season when it played in the New Orleans Bowl. The Red Wolves opponent, Northern Illinois, holds the nation's third longest win streak at eight games after completing its season with a 10-3 record.
A-State hit the ASU Stadium field at 10 a.m. in full pads and went through 18 periods of work that featured team sessions, individual drills, passing skeletons and various other practice material. Led by a strong senior class featuring nine All-Sun Belt Conference selections, the Red Wolves maintained their focus on the bowl game after the team took the majority of this week off to prepare for final exams.
Not only was the practice the Red Wolves' first since the end of the regular season, it was their first this year under the direction of coach David Gunn. In his 10th season on the Red Wolves' coaching staff, Gunn was appointed the interim head coach earlier this week after Hugh Freeze accepted the head coaching position at Ole Miss.
"It was very good to get back on the football field," said Gunn. "The guys were well focused and went about practice today with a business attitude, so I was very pleased with the way practice went. We've got to continue to improve on some of the things that we're doing, but it's the first day back after a week layover and we've got a long time before we play our next game. So I was pleased with the attitude and the approach that we had to practice."
While four former assistant coaches also accepted positions at Ole Miss with Freeze, assistant coaches Corey Batoon, Grant Heard, Darren Hiller and Tyler Siskey remain on staff and have taken over some added responsibility and new roles that were on display during practice.
Along with other football staff members, graduate assistant coaches Travion Scott and Anthony Robinson took on adjusted responsibilities during practice. Former Memphis defensive coordinator Kenny Ingram and former Nashville (Ark.) head coach Billy Dawson were on the field for the first time as well after Gunn recently announced they would assist the program in its preparation for the bowl game.
Arkansas State's on-field bowl preparations will continue with a 3:15 p.m. practice tomorrow. Bowl practices will continue Dec. 16-19, with times to be announced later. The Red Wolves' final workouts in Jonesboro are scheduled for Jan. 1-3, with the team departing for Mobile Jan. 4.