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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas State quarterback Layne Hatcher said he has “all the confidence in the world” in the Red Wolves as they take on Texas State tonight in Jonesboro. If ASU is victorious, its hopes of winning the Sun Belt West division are alive with four games left to play. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

JONESBORO — On Sunday, nearly a full three days removed from a second consecutive loss that led to a dip below .500, Arkansas State University Coach Blake Anderson met with his team inside the Red Wolves’ north end zone facility.

This meeting had a different feel than previous ones. The tone was stronger, the message more profound.

“He said that in the team meeting room, if you’re not going to buy in to what we got going on, then don’t come back,” senior wide receiver Omar Bayless said. “He really meant what he said.

“That’s his first time basically just really getting on to us, which he should have. It was a great time for him to do it at that moment. Like he said, if we can win out the rest of these games, then who knows what can happen.”

Said redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher: “I think that [meeting] was a big thing. Some guys kind of changed their attitudes and realized that we’re not done for the year. There’s still a lot left that we can do, and we’re gonna go do it. I have all the confidence in the world in us.”

Tough meetings can only fix so much, though.

The Red Wolves’ outlook for the remainder of the season could shift dramatically based on the result of tonight, when ASU (3-4, 1-2 Sun Belt) hosts Texas State (2-4, 1-1) at 6 in Jonesboro on homecoming.

A win and ASU’s hopes of winning the Sun Belt West division are alive with four games left to play.

A loss would spell serious trouble, not just for the goal of winning the division but for ASU’s eight-year bowl streak. Sitting at 3-5 with four games to play isn’t where the Red Wolves want to find themselves.

“Coming off a two-game [losing streak], we just got to find a way to get some momentum going, create a lot of energy for this football team because a lot of people [are] down,” said Bayless, who’s 164 yards shy of breaking the school record for most receiving yards in a season. “We just got to pick the whole team up so we can get going.”

Anderson was quick to point out this week that this Texas State team is unlike those of previous years.

Former coach Everett Withers, who went 7-28 in three seasons in San Marcos, was fired in November, and Jake Spavital is now the man in charge of the Bobcats after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at West Virginia the previous two seasons.

“They got nothing to lose, man,” Anderson said. “They got a new coach, they’re doing some new things. Really just being able to play free and know that probably expectations for them right now are pretty low, and that takes the pressure off guys and allows them just to cut loose and play.”

Spavital, as he noted in July at Sun Belt Media Day in New Orleans, has coached a bevy of top quarterbacks in previous coaching stops, including Kyler Murray, Will Grier, Case Keenum, Kyle Allen, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Davis Webb, Kenny Hill and David Johnson. Six of those are currently in the NFL, and Murray, Allen and Keenum are starters.

Texas State’s quarterbacks haven’t exactly proven to be world-beaters thus far. With junior starter Gresch Jensen in concussion protocol, sophomore backup Tyler Vitt — who’s seen limited action — is expected to start tonight for the Bobcats.

“I think Jake does a great job with scheme. Everywhere he’s been they’ve scored points, so that makes them dangerous,” Anderson said. “They’ve had a good defense. They can build on that, which takes a lot of pressure off the offense.

“I think they’re dangerous because I think they have had athletes in recent years and just not been organized or motivated. You see a team right now that’s playing hard. They’re excited about what’s going on. That makes them really dangerous.”

ASU has been in one-possession games in the fourth quarter of its past three games. The Red Wolves came out on top only once — a 50-43 victory over Troy on Sept. 28. The past two games against Georgia State and Louisiana-Lafayette, ASU ended up losing by a combined 31 points.

Closing games have been one of Anderson’s biggest concerns.

“We’ve overanalyzed that to a point where they realize — even with challenges that we’ve faced, all the things that have happened this year — we still have enough bodies, guys that are capable of winning those games,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to play more detailed, better technical football in crunch time.”

Anderson didn’t flinch Monday when he said the Red Wolves can and should run the table to finish 8-4. Neither did his players.

“It’s gonna pick up,” Bayless said. “I most definitely believe that.”

Today’s game

Texas State at Arkansas State

WHEN 6 p.m.

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

RECORDS ASU (3-4, 1-2 Sun Belt); Texas State (2-4, 1-1)

RADIO KFIN-FM, 107.9, in Jonesboro; KHLR-FM, 106.7, in Little Rock

INTERNET AStateRedWolves.com, ESPN+

COACHES Blake Anderson (42-28 in six seasons at ASU); Jake Spavital (2-4 in one season at Texas State)

SERIES ASU leads 5-1.

LAST MEETING ASU defeated Texas State 33-7 in San Marcos, Texas, on Nov. 24, 2018.

LAST WEEK ASU lost to Louisiana-Lafayette 37-20 in Jonesboro on Oct. 17. Texas State was on a bye.

NOTEWORTHY ASU is an 11.5-point favorite over Texas State. … The Red Wolves haven’t lost three consecutive conference games in a season since 2009. … ASU has won 23 of its past 29 games in the month of October. … ASU senior Omar Bayless remains the nation’s leader in receiving with 993 yards, 112 clear of Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, who’s No. 2. Bayless is also tied for first nationally in receiving touchdowns with 10. … ASU sophomore running back Marcel Murray is coming off the best game of his career last week against Louisiana-Lafayette, when he rushed 35 times for 164 yards — each career highs. … ASU redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher has completed 67.9% of his passes for 1,095 yards, 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

Print Headline: Anderson presses Wolves for resolve

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