Disappointed and embarrassed.
Those are the two words Arkansas State University Coach Blake Anderson used after his team lost 52-23 to Coastal Carolina (3-0, 1-0 Sun Bet) on Saturday -- ASU's (1-2, 0-1) largest Sun Belt Conference loss since 2006 when it fell to Florida Atlantic 29-0. Anderson was the only member of ASU's team to speak with the media after the game, saying "nobody played well enough to talk to, to be honest with you."
"We played about as bad as you can play," Anderson said. "We've got to grow up fast. I expected a lot more out of our football team today than we got."
ASU looked sharp to start the game, despite not playing in 21 days because of postponements against the University of Central Arkansas and Tulsa.
The Red Wolves took a 7-0 lead after junior quarterback Logan Bonner connected with senior wide receiver Dahu Green early in the first quarter. Coastal Carolina responded with a 72-yard touchdown pass, but the Red Wolves answered with another Bonner touchdown pass, this time to senior receiver Brandon Bowling from 16 yards out.
After falling behind 14-7 lead with 2:3o left in the first quarter, Coastal Carolina proceeded to outscore ASU 38-3 over the next 42 minutes.
It started with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 5:26 to tie the game at 14-14. Then Coastal Carolina recovered a pooch kick -- which Anderson said "should have been fair caught" -- that led to a field goal.
Following an Arkansas State three-and-out, Coastal Carolina did what it does best, going on an 18-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that chewed up 8:38 and gave the Chanticleers a 24-14 lead at halftime.
Arkansas State possessed the ball for only 1:50 in the second quarter.
"It's not my first triple-option, ball-control team to play. I've seen Air Force, I've seen Navy, Georgia Tech several times and Georgia Southern, and even these guys have tried to do the same things to us and we've played better, we've been able to manage it," Anderson said. "We just didn't play well today. I was very clear with our team all week long of what their game plan was, and that we had to play with more effort, and we had to be more physical, and we had to be assignment sound -- I don't think we won any of those goals. If we did, it'd be a different game."
The Chanticleers did the exact same thing to start the third quarter, going on a 14-play, 83-yard drive that took 7:57 and left ASU in a 31-14 hole.
An interception by sophomore safety Anthony Switzer, a fumble recovery by sophomore cornerback Samy Johnson and a 42-yard field goal by junior Blake Grupe allowed the Red Wolves to cut it a 14-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.
While the Arkansas State offense struggled to capitalize on the turnovers, Coastal Carolina responded with two touchdowns, taking a 45-17 lead with 6:16 remaining. Bowling scored his second touchdown of the game with 5:07 left, but it was too little too late.
The Chanticleers dominated ASU on time of possession, 41:21 to 17:53, as ASU's defense had difficulty getting off the field. The Red Wolves allowed Coastal Carolina to convert 10 of 17 third downs, including one from 11 yards out and another from 14 on the same drive, which eventually resulted in a touchdown and a 38-17 deficit for ASU.
"They were 60% on third down, they were scoring touchdowns instead of field goals, they controlled the clock -- you name it," Anderson said. "I expected us to play better defensively than we did. We obviously did not play well. When you consider they had the ball for almost 40 minutes, that's exactly what they want to do. They want to frustrate you, run the clock, keep our offense on the sideline and find ways to just extend drives, and I thought they did it flawlessly.
"The only thing we did well was create a couple turnovers. We did not do anything else well defensively today at all."
In the little time ASU's offense was on the field, it sputtered after the first quarter. The Red Wolves rushed for only 36 yards and were 5 of 15 on third down. Bonner was the lone bright spot, going 16 of 21 for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns, while rotating each series with sophomore Layne Hatcher, who was 12 of 23 for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
As for what ASU needs to work on after the loss, Anderson was blunt.
"Everything. Truthfully. I know that's kind of a short answer, but we're not a very good football team unless we do everything right," Anderson said. "We've got to play more competitive at the point of attack. When the ball is in the air, we've got to attack it. They run the ball, we've got to come up and be more physical."
Arkansas State has UCA coming to Jonesboro on Saturday, with a game against Georgia State five days after that.
Anderson hopes his team will respond accordingly.
"My message today was real clear: Football is a humbling sport. You're as high as a kite one week, a few weeks later you don't go out and play your very best and you're right back to reality," Anderson said. "It's a test. How are we going to respond? How are we going to grow up? Are we going to point fingers and make excuses or are we going to take ownership?"