There is nothing more important to this group of Arkansas State Football seniors than finding a way to come away with a victory in this year’s GoDaddy.com Bowl.
This is the second straight year that the Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference Championship, this is the second straight year that they have appeared in this Bowl game in Mobile.
Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin, the back to back Sun Belt Conference Player of the year remembers the feeling that he felt after last year’s game against Northern Illinois.
“It left a really bad taste in our mouthes,” Aplin told AStateNation. “It’s definitely something that we don’t want to do again.”
This is also the second year that the Red Wolves have lost their head football coach after capturing a conference championship, but this year’s coaching staff mainly stays intact for all of the bowl practices, a fact that many ASU players feel will help them prepare to take on nationally ranked Kent State Sunday night at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile.
“It’s big having both of our coordinators here this time around,” Aplin said. “All of our coaches are here, including the graduate assistants and even the operation guys, our preparation is just like we did all season.”
The only missing person is former ASU Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn, who left three days after winning the conference as he was named the Head Football Coach at the University of Auburn.
“Having Coach Lashlee here is definitely an advantage over what we had last season,” Aplin said. “Coach Lashlee was the one that put together the weekly game plan, we really aren’t missing a beat.”
With Thompson still calling the defense, the ASU defenders are going about things as normal.
"We have the same exact coaches we have had all year," Senior Linebacker Nathan Herrold said. "It's business as usual for us. The way we prepare and the way we practice, nothing has changed."
ASU new Athletic Director Terry Mohajir named veteran defensive coordinator John Thompson as interim coach, it has been announced by new ASU Head Football Coach Bryan Harsin that Thompson will be retained on his new staff at the same position. The other coach that will be retained is running backs coach Eliah Drinkwitz.
“I wanted to make sure that our players were afforded every opportunity to prepare for this bowl like they did for every game this season,” Mohajir said recently. “Coach (Gus) Malzahn did a great job working with us to make sure all of the assistant coaches stayed here and helped in our bowl preparations.”
Thursday’s practice went well according to Coach Thompson.
“We keep getting a little better each day,” Thompson said. “This group of guys really want to go out on a winning note. We have a great group of seniors who lead this team and they are very focused on having better results than last year.”
Thompson was quick to point out that this weekend matchup won’t be an easy one.
“This is probably the third best team we will have played all season,” Thompson said. “They have a good quarterback and a very big and physical running back. We will have to be at our best come Sunday.”
Arkansas State will return to the practice field on Friday as Thompson and his staff tones things down as they are in game week mode.
“We haven’t had long practices,” Thompson said. “We want to keep our players fresh, but we also want to make sure that we are ready to play. Being off for over a month doesn’t help, but I truly feel that we will be ready come game time Sunday night.”
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