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September 16, 2009

Inside Slant: Arkansas State Team Report

Steve Roberts knows his team has work to do as it takes a week off before a big Sun Belt Conference game against Troy.

What he doesn't know is if this early bye is a good thing or not.

"I don't know. We'll find out next Saturday," the Arkansas State coach told the weekly Sun Belt media conference call. "Obviously, we've got a lot to work on, from a fundamental standpoint and a technique standpoint, just like normal.

"We're not throwing in the towel because we got beat by the University of Nebraska. We have a lot to play for this year. It's not all doom and gloom around our program, that's for sure."

The Red Wolves lost, 38-9, at Nebraska last week and now gets ready for Troy, the defending Sun Belt champs who were picked to win it again, with ASU tabbed second.

Troy is also coming off a pasting and theirs was even worse than the one Arkansas State got. Troy lost, 56-6, at No. 1 Florida.

Roberts clearly wasn't thrilled with the way his team played at Nebraska and now puts the Wolves through a week of practice, lifting and watching film before installing the game plan for Troy as a regular work week starts Sunday.

NOTES, QUOTES

• Arkansas State, big winners over 1-AA Mississippi Valley State in the opener, was a 38-9 loser at Nebraska in the first meeting between the two schools.

• The Red Wolves now have a bye before hosting Troy in a matchup of the teams picked 1-2 in the Sun Belt Conference.

• The Arkansas State secondary, decimated by injuries and disciplinary departures, is a concern after being torched by Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee. "Obviously it's real early in the season and we've got some players that are new at the roles that they're being asked to play this year as far as first-year starters and playing significant snaps," says ASU coach Steve Roberts. "I know that we'll improve and I think there are a lot of things that are easy to correct. We just have to make sure that we get everybody on the same page."

• ASU is 1-16 against the Big 12, 1-9 under Steve Roberts.

• DE Alex Carrington, the preseason defensive player of the year in the Sun Belt, has had just two tackles in each of the first two games, picking up a sack at Nebraska.

• QB Corey Leonard was just 11-for-20 for 131 yards (no touchdowns or interceptions) and was sacked four times in the loss.

Next Game: Arkansas State vs. Troy, Sept. 26-Troy, the defending champions, and ASU were picked 1-2 in the conference and square off early in a game that may well shape the season for both. Both were clubbed by ranked teams on the road Sept. 12. Last year ASU closed its season with a 35-9 loss at Troy.

This Week 'S MISSION: Basically, to shake off last week and get better. Arkansas State doesn't have to play at Nebraska every week and that's a good thing and the coaches will try to restore the players' confidence and get them to focus on Troy in a game that really matters for the conference.

September At A Glance: The Red Wolves are 1-1, 0-1 against 1-A competition and coach Steve Roberts was hoping for a better showing at Nebraska. But that's over with and the game with Troy closes the month and shapes the conference standings.

Quote To Note: "It doesn't matter. It's on the schedule where it is. That's all we're concentrating on. We're not spending any of our time thinking about (if) it would be better or worse to play them someplace else in the schedule."-Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts on the upcoming big conference matchup with Troy.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Looking Good: It's hard to tell, really. You beat up on a 1-AA team and everything looks good. You get hammered by a ranked 1-A team and everything looks bad. Reggie Arnold has five touchdowns in the first two games of the season and is on his way to his fourth straight 1,000 rushing campaign.

Still Needs Work: The psyche of this football team has to be shaken some by the game at Nebraska and the players probably would have loved to get right back at it with Troy comes to town. The secondary is a work in progress and got torched by Nebraska. Overall consistency remains a question but that's a tough read when you consider the opposition of the first two games.

Star Watch: RB Reggie Arnold-He was supposed to be the featured guy on the offense and he has been, with five touchdowns in the first two games. He has 26 for his career, tying him for third place all-time at the school and for fourth in the Sun Belt. He is trying to become the eighth player in 1-A history to record four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Critical Decision: Just getting the right parts in the right spots in the secondary as Steve Roberts looks for the right mix back there.

Roster Report:

• WR Jahbari McLennan was the recipient of seven of Corey Leonard's 11 completions at Nebraska, a career high for McLennan, who gained 69 yards on his catches. But he was guilty of a red-zone fumble with his team down 21-0.

• LB Demario Davis (10), CB Cordarious Mingo (seven), LB Nathan Herrold (six), CB Greg Smith (five) and S Kelcie McCray (five) all recorded career highs in tackles in the loss at Nebraska. Davis' previous high was three.

• DE Alex Carrington's first sack of the season, at Nebraska, gave him 13.5 for his career, three shy of becoming No. 5 on the school's all-time list.

• RB Reggie Arnold's 83 yards at Nebraska gave him 3,419 and moved him into third place on the Sun Belt Conference's all-time rushing list.

• P Ryan Wilbourn averaged just 20.1 yards per punt in the opener but bounced back with a 45.0 average, including a 57-yarder, at Nebraska. That was the longest punt in the conference in the first two weeks of the season.

• K Josh Arauco, a Lou Groza finalist last year and on the watch list in 2009, missed an extra point Saturday and then hit on a 42-yard field goal.


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