ASU's Jones searches for late-loss feedback

FILE — Arkansas State head coach Butch Jones talks about the upcoming season during ASU's media day in Jonesboro in this Aug. 9, 2022 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

After another late-game loss, Arkansas State Coach Butch Jones needed to hear from outside voices.

Not that he's running from the challenge that is the Red Wolves' program. As he explained during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Jones told his agent back in 2020 that he wanted to land in a place where he could build things from the bottom up.

But ASU's 16-13 loss at Texas State Saturday was the fourth time this season the Red Wolves had come out on the wrong end of a game decided in the closing minutes.

Perhaps there was some thought in Jonesboro that a two-point-conversion stand against Massachusetts two weeks ago had gotten ASU over that hump. Yet even in that game, Jones' team led 35-19 at the start of the fourth quarter.

"We're competitive and we're in these games," Jones said. "[The losses are] just mind-boggling. I've never been a part of anything [like it], and it's a cumulative effect -- you don't get any calls that go your way, the ball doesn't bounce your way."

Jones said that he's crowd-sourcing with other coaches around the country, trying to figure out how he can best help the Red Wolves learn how to close things out late in games.

Those conversations included one with current UCLA men's basketball Coach Mick Cronin, who was at Cincinnati from 2006-19 while Jones led the Bearcats' football team.

Cronin pointed to a year in which one of his Cincinnati teams lost several straight games on final-minute possessions. The Bearcats posted sub-.500 records in Cronin's first two seasons, had winning campaigns each of the next two years, then made the NCAA Tournament in his final nine seasons before departing for UCLA.

"Stay the course. Everybody goes through it," Jones said when asked about his takeaways from Cronin. "When you're learning how to win, this is the last hurdle, this is the hardest hurdle to get through -- the ability to close games out, to persevere, to make plays at the end of the game

"When you're able to talk to individuals [like Cronin] that have lived it and kind of have the same feelings that you have and the same gamuts of emotion, that's always helpful."

Jones again emphasized that ASU had opportunities outside of the fourth quarter to put away the Bobcats last weekend. Texas State scored just three points over the first three quarters, but the Red Wolves punts on six of their first eight possessions in San Marcos.

Getting a win against a Troy team that has lost once in Sun Belt Conference play and not since Sept. 17 will be no straightforward task.

At the same time, five of the Trojans' wins in that run of eight straight victories have come by single digits.

"They're thinking about winning a [Sun Belt] that's their mindset," offensive tackle Makilan Thomas said of Troy. "Last game of the season, we're just giving it all we've got for the seniors and the whole team."

Up next


WHEN 2:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro



RADIO Red Wolves Sports Network

LINE Troy by 13 1/2