Arkansas State Head Coach Blake Anderson
“It was a great week, the bowl is a first class bowl. They ran it well, we felt really welcome here and the kids had a great time all except tonight. It always hurts to lose the last game of the season, and I hate that for our senior class. They have done a tremendous job over the last five years, and to continue to build upon a legacy we want to carry on. You hate that it goes this way. Middle Tennessee played with a chip on their shoulder and played hard all night, and Stockstill as we expected played really well. They made plays they had to make and we made too many mistakes to win a game against a good football team.
“We thought all along they were a lot better than their record, and they proved that tonight. They overcame injuries throughout the year to get here, and obviously were excited to be here. To me the big concerns were turnovers – the turnover for a touchdown and the turnover in the score zone where we should get points – those cannot happen. Another game where we outgained the opponent but did not outscore them. We have to finish, we have to get points and had a couple of coverage busts, giving up a couple of big plays for touchdowns. Communication busts like that cannot happen. A very talented athletic team, but inconsistent and too many mistakes. We will get back and get to work in January, we will need to get more physical and powerful to finish in the red zone. At the end of the day, it hurts to lose and we have to learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.”
On the last drive:
“You have no timeouts because we had to use them to get the ball back. We were trying to pop a play here and there, obviously the percentages are against you when you have to go 90-something yards in not a lot of time on the clock and no timeouts. We needed something to pop, I thought once we hit Chris Murray we were putting ourselves in position but you can’t sacks there. The pressure got to us and we can’t take sacks there, and everything has to happen perfectly. You have to protect, you have to catch the ball with bodies around you and you have to get big chunks.”
Pressure on Hanson all day:
“We struggled all day. We knew their movement and the way they played would be a challenge for us, and our young guys really struggled all night. We tried to settle things down at times when we could get tempo, and it helped. But when they were able to get their calls defensively and get some one-on-ones up front, we did struggle. That is youth and inexperience that was the biggest issue tonight against guys that were bringing a lot of different, complicated looks. We just have to continue to improve.
On roughing the punter penalty:
“Can’t happen, can’t happen. You want to go for blocks, we blocked one last year and it was a huge block. We have blocked them along the way this year. You want to be aggressive, but you also have to be smart enough to stay off of them. I thought their punter did a great job of creating contact, keeping his foot out there and making a collision. That is what a veteran, smart, savvy guy is going to do but we cannot have that penalty. It did create momentum for them, and allowed them to drive and get a touchdown. I think the other big turnover was for a touchdown. That has to be a sack, a tackle for loss but not points, and Justice knows that. We work ball security to the highest level, and that ball can’t end up on the ground. Everybody played a part in this, this is a team loss and we did not play clean enough to win.
How do you change the fact that you are so hard on yourselves:
“Keep working, we just have to keep working. We knew we had a bunch of new guys, and didn’t have a lot of experience. The only way to do it is one day at a time, this is not a good lesson to learn. You cannot give people opportunity after opportunity to beat you by making mistakes. You have to make them earn it. It is a process, it is a good old’ roll your sleeves up and work and that is what we will do.
Do you think Justice needs to learn when to kill a play:
“Yeah I think he needs to know when a play is over and it is dead, but that is why he makes as many plays as he does. If he protects the ball there, it is not a big as a conversation as it is. That cannot happen, at the end of the day that is a guy we trust. He was the Player of the Year offensively in the league for a reason because he does make a lot of explosive plays. At the end of the day, it is a fine line when to give up on a play and when not to. There were times tonight when he didn’t give up, and created plays with his feet and picked up first downs that looked similar to the one with the turnover and sack. It is always reaction and feel in the moment.
On having chance to win last two games:
“The guys don’t give up, this group has never given up. We know we have the ability to score in a short amount of time. We were down 14 tonight and we made a couple of plays, and we were in the end zone. We know we have that potential, it is just feast or famine with us right now. We have to be more consistent and more detailed, but they don’t quit and play hard. They keep expecting someone to make that play, and that is what is good.
Offseason, correcting red zone issues:
“We are just not powerful up front. We have three pups playing up front in the middle, and our tackles maintained the control but they don’t control the running game. We just need to build power in the red zone, if you can impose your will you will end up in the end zone. Our inability to run in the red zone has been our problem all year and that is just inexperience. We just need to build those guys and a great offseason will help us. You have to win in one-on-one situations.
How much is it going to eat at you, this lose:
“I don’t know a number, but it is eating at me now and it won’t stop until we get another win. That’s not how I am built. We are going to work our tails off, these last two need to drive you.
How tough is it for you to know the sack record didn’t get broken:
“You could see the sideline when we got it and how excited everyone was for him. And then to see a facemask flag on someone that I am still waiting on a number on, it hurts. That is what I just told him. It doesn’t tarnish a career, he has had a great career. I find it hard to believe he did not break the record, I thought he would. But I hurt for him and I hate that he will end up in the number two spot.
Reflect on the year:
“7-5 is not where we want to be. I am glad we played for a championship and made it to a bowl game, but that is not where we want to be. Maybe as I look back on it and dissect the season, maybe it is better. I believe athletically we are better than that, but 7-5 is not our standard. I am excited about the guys we have coming back, and they have a chance to have a special season but we have to get to work.
Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen:
What was making things difficult on the last drive:
“They did a good job of holding us up, making things a little difficult to get passes downfield.
How did that change things for you:
“It doesn’t hurt us, but at the same time I think I have to get out and make a play, even to throw the ball away.
Talk about this season, the way the last two games played out and how the season ended:
“Really hurting ourselves. If we can stop hurting ourselves offensively and score at times during the game, that would be a big step for us.
Red zone, what were some of the struggles there:
“They did a good job confusing us up front, and on the outside they were doing a good job of being physical. Our offense knows that we can score at any time, but a lot of the time we hurt ourselves. Once we can start limiting that, we will start moving in the right direction. We just need to know where to attack on offense in the red zone, and that is something I don’t think we did a good job of tonight.
There were times were you started to have to pass the ball a lot, was that something that was part of the game plan:
“Once you get down by a couple of scores, especially late in the game you tend the throw the ball a lot more just to hopefully stop the clock here and there. That is how the game went.
What about next year and the talent:
“We know we have talent. We just have to be more efficient on offense and stop hurting ourselves. On offense, we have a lot of talent coming back so it is just about working hard and getting better at what we are doing.
Do you think you held on to the ball a little too long tonight:
“I wouldn’t say so. A lot of it is based of what type of play we are running. There are plays where we get the ball out quick, and then there are some downfield plays. It is based off the plays we run.
What changed in the second half:
“We found a rhythm. There was a point where we really just found that and we were able to move the ball.
Do you think your injury hampered you:
“It happened in the offseason, and I made it through the season. I am not complaining about anything, and any of these guys can tell you that everyone plays through some pain.
Talk about the quick passes:
“We expected that. They had a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage, and our game plan was based on that and if they had a lot of guys on the outside. Early on they weren’t doing that and we were trying to take advantage of it.
Arkansas State safety B.J. Edmonds:
Talk about the game today, and your performance:
“It was nice. I had a pair of interceptions, but I have up the touchdown at the end. When we come back in the offseason, we are going to work hard. This is a bad feeling to send our seniors out on a bad note, and this should fuel us to work even harder in the offseason like we have never before.
The end of halftime with the touchdown, how much did that impact the flow:
“I think it was a big swing in the game. We could have gotten a three and out and gave the ball back to our offense, but I failed to stay on top of the route. They threw it up and he made a great catch, it was just unfortunate because that was a big score and a big point in the game.
Arkansas State defensive End Ja’Von Rolland-Jones:
What was it like to trying to rush tonight and get a sack:
“They did a great job with their game plan. I got chipped throughout the game, they were covering me up with a tight end and they were doubling me all night. The quarterback was getting the ball out fast. There were just a lot of things they did well. Hats off to them, they had a great game plan.
Last game, what are you thinking right now:
“It’s sad going out like this. I love my brothers, and I had a great career here at Arkansas State and Jonesboro is full of great people. I can look back on it and be positive about it.
On not getting the all-time NCAA sack record:
“Of course I wanted to get it, but at the end of the day we lost so it doesn’t matter. At that particular time I was disappointed. I know I have had more opportunities to get more sacks, but it just didn’t fall.
As it stands right now, you are second, what is your reflection:
“I have nothing but good reflections, but it is heartbreaking. The game is heartbreaking, the record doesn’t matter.