JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - As we near kick-off of Arkansas State's home opener against #21 Missouri, there are too many story lines to cover, but we can sure try.
Where do we start? The new press box? The highest ranked team to ever enter Centennial Bank Stadium? The crowd? All of which are huge stories but since we cover sports in the Region 8 SPORTS department, let's begin there.
Not to mince words, the Red Wolves will need a significantly better game than they had at USC to have a shot at an upset of the Tigers. The good news is they have quarterback who bounces back better than anyone this coaching staff has ever seen. "We're extremely critical of ourselves, he and I don't handle that well," Red Wolves Offensive Coordinator Walt Bell said at this week's news conference, "The place where he is much more equipped for the game of football than I am is he can get over things like that."
Knigthen has shown the ability to come back strong even after a rough performance. All indicators point to the chance that he has a fantastic game on Saturday. "He bounces back," said Bell, "I go back to that Utah State game, I've never seen a kid play so poor and go win the game. I'd have been hiding under the bench somewhere falling apart. He overcomes things really well. Typically he's one of those guys if he has an aweful practice on practice number six, practice number seven is going to be the best one he plays."
Staying with the offensive theme, A-State will need a heavy rushing attack to take some of the pressure off of Knighten. There is good news on this front as well. Michael Gordon appears to be healthy and running well, despite his fumble in Los Angeles, he seems poised for a good year. The Red Wolves also saw a solid performance by freshman Warren Wand. He will be great to give Flash Gordon some snaps and the coaching staff seems confident in his ability to play on the big stage. "He's going to be sprinkled in throughout," said Head Coach Blake Anderson, "He finished a couple of runs, it encourages you and kind of gives you confidence to know that we can plug him in at any time. I'm not sure how many snaps he played but he was out on the field a pretty good bit."
To the bad news, Missouri once again has a defensive line that will be hard to beat. The Tigers are notorious for sending big men up front and have several playing in the NFL right now. "They're big even though they're young and they replace 30 to 40 sacks that have graduated to the NFL," said Bell, "They lost that first group of NFL guys and you thought they'd never be the same, then they got two more guys and thought they were never going to be the same. They got guys right behind them too."
I don't even want to say it because I feel like EVERYONE already knows, but Arkansas State will have to avoid turnovers on Saturday or this game will turn lopsided quickly. They lost the ball four times against USC and lead to two touchdowns and probably even three. There, I said it, let's move on.
To the festivities, this game has the potential to be the biggest in Arkansas State history. It's the highest ranked opponent ever, so the natural thought would be it would bring the biggest crowd in ever. There are tickets still available, so we'll have to wait and see how many our bought between now and kick-off on Saturday. There is no doubt, the atmosphere will be huge. A big time press box, a big time opponent, and the start of a new season should produce a tremendous mood for all in attendance. At this point, I don't know if it sells out, but the crowd will still be one to remember.
In conclusion, this is a game the Red Wolves have a chance to win. It'll take everything they have and a close-to-perfect effort, but they have a chance. A good showing, a good crowd, and a close game will make this a Saturday to remember in Jonesboro regardless of the final score.
Copyright 2015 KAIT. All rights reserved.