Today's Paper Latest Elections Coronavirus 🔵 Covid Classroom Cooking Families Core values Story ideas iPad Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles Archive
story.lead_photo.caption ( The Associated Press )

Jacob Still knows his unit hasn't been playing well.

The disappointment in the Arkansas State University senior center's voice was apparent.

"It's frustrating when we've had two losses like we've had in conference," he said. "We're not playing where we need to play at up front. I think a lot of people know that."

Still and the offensive line struggled Thursday against Appalachian State, rushing for only 73 yards and allowing 6 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

"It was not their best performance," offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf said. "But there's a lot of things that can be attributed to that. One, I think they went up against a very good front, and we saw what a championship-caliber defense looks like and what that defensive line looks like. They caused us some issues.

"Hopefully with the extra few days this week we get a little bit more rest, we come back a little bit more healthy next week. But they got after us pretty good, and they definitely won that battle."

ASU is without one of its best offensive linemen, junior left guard Andre Harris, who has been out since the University of Central Arkansas game. The Red Wolves also were without their starting left tackle, junior Jarrett Horst, for most of the Appalachian State game as he's been playing "banged up" most of the season. Coach Blake Anderson said he hopes to have both Saturday against Troy, but isn't 100% sure they will be ready to go.

Anderson provided no excuses for the offensive line's performance Thursday.

"Really, at no position on the O-line did we handle their front, which mitigated a couple matchups in our favor, which were wideout against their secondary," Anderson said Monday. "When you can't protect, you can't throw it to them. And if you can't run the ball and stay ahead of the chains, it's going to be a really, really long night."

The Red Wolves were dominated up front physically in the 45-17 loss. Anderson said his offensive line has to improve its physicality.

And while it's hard to change a group's physicality midseason, Anderson said there's a few things the unit and the coaching staff can do to fix the problems.

"It's a mindset to some degree. And I don't think that we're unwilling. We were outmanned at most positions physically," Anderson said. "They absolutely manhandled us up front on the O-line. That's something that I did not think would be that drastic of an issue, but it was. And we're obviously missing some pieces and we've got a couple banged up guys playing, but we still have to play much, much better.

"So it's a mentality. Can you affect in the short term in a huge way? That's hard to do. Now, we can be smarter in terms of our plan. We can use our speed more, our quickness more, and if we played them again today, that's exactly what we would need to do."

Still said most of the problems have since the Coastal Carolina game, when the Chanticleers held the Red Wolves to 36 yards rushing by confusing the ASU offensive line with different looks and schemes.

Other teams now are replicating Coastal Carolina's game plan.

"Defenses are doing a lot to us up front," Still said. "They're twisting and moving a lot. They're not really playing much in their base. It's like a fireworks show. They're just going in all different directions. And we just get out of position sometimes.

"We just kind of have to calm down and stick to our rules and be better at picking up pressures. Right now, I think the biggest problem with us is picking up movement and handling pressures."

Still, who has started the past four years for ASU, is the clear-cut leader on the offensive line and has taken it upon himself to get the unit back to the way it was playing early in the season.

His message to his teammates is simple.

"My message to them is to stay focused during the week," he said. "Do whatever you can to put yourself in the best position to win your battle."


Sponsor Content

COMMENTS - It looks like you're using Internet Explorer, which isn't compatible with the Democrat-Gazette commenting system. You can join the discussion by using another browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome.
It looks like you're using Microsoft Edge. The Democrat-Gazette commenting system is more compatible with Firefox and Google Chrome.