Jeff Reed: Sun Belt Conference Owned by A-State



Jeff Reed Author PageThey crowned the champions in Jonesboro on Saturday.

And in this case “they” was actually Arkansas State itself, since no one from the Sun Belt Conference office bothered to attend the game. But that’s OK, it did not stop the celebration.

After the 55-17 victory over Texas State, the Red Wolves (9-3, 8-0) captured the outright Sun Belt title. They earned a share of it the week before at New Mexico State and wrapped it up for the home folks on Saturday.

And if you are scoring at home, that is four conference titles (under four head coaches) in five seasons for the Red Wolves, no doubt the best stretch in school history.

This was a team where you saw potential in the preseason and was a strong third-place pick in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll.

But on the field, and not on paper, the Red Wolves easily proved they were the best team by far in the league this year.

Following a tough non-conference schedule, one coach Blake Anderson called as tough as any in the country at that time (at USC, Missouri and Toledo), the Red Wolves coaches all said they believed things would get better when they got into conference play against a more level playing field.

Things did get better and the playing field did not seem quite so level.

In league play the Red Wolves’ closest game was 37-27 against UL-Lafayette when the Cajuns still had life. After that it was runner-up Appalachian State 40-27 after the Mountaineers scored a touchdown with about 3 minutes left.

At his press conference after the victory over Texas State, Anderson said he didn’t feel like the Red Wolves ran away with the conference because “they were all tough.”

But when the final numbers came in they were A-State stamped.

The Red Wolves led the offense with 48.6 points per game in league play. They allowed 27.5, which ranked fifth in the league but the three touchdown differential was easily a league best.

Down the stretch A-State scored more than 50 in the final three games.

So Saturday evening in Jonesboro, thousands gathered on the field for the third trophy celebration in five years. The Red Wolves won their fourth league title on a day when UL-Lafayette lost its finale and forced a tie.

So now the Red Wolves finally get New Orleans on their sixth try. The team won its first conference title in 2005 and received the NOLA Bowl bid, the same year Katrina hit and the game was played in ULL. While winning three straight titles A-State was shipped to Mobile for the GoDaddy Bowl so the nearby Cajuns could play in New Orleans. Last year A-State went to Mobile again after finishing fourth in the league.

So finally the Red Wolves take New Orleans. The game vs. Louisiana Tech is Dec. 19.

red wolves win sun belt conference title


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