30 October 2008
It is homecoming week at the University of Alabama. Usually, that means a weeks worth of activities and parades and floats and what not culminating with a blow out win over a cupcake opponent.
This year’s Dick Vitale special is Arkansas State
That wasn’t the case last season as the Tide dropped a 21-14 decision to lowly Louisiana-Monroe. Bama was in the midst of a good season in year one of the Saban era with a 6-2 record before dropping the first of four straight to the directional Louisiana school.
Alabama has decidedly more to play for this season at homecoming with a perfect 8-0 record and #2 BCS ranking. That alone should be enough motivation to take this game as seriously as any other game but when you add the embarrassment of La Monroe a year ago – that should lead to playing with a chip on your shoulder.
Unfortunately, Arkansas State isn’t your run of the mill push over opponent. The Red Wolves (formerly the Indians) rank 22 nationally in total offense, averaging 435 yards of total offense.
Adding to their resume, Arkansas State downed Texas A & M in the season opener for both schools 18-14. In the 2007 season, with a similar roster, the Red Wolves dropped a close decision to then fourth ranked Texas 21-13 and actually out gained them offensively.
Offensively, Ark State is led by junior quarterback Corey Leonard. Leonard is a true dual threat signal caller, amassing 1474 yards passing and 486 yards rushing so far this season. Leonard has thrown for 11 touchdowns compared to three interceptions and also has two rushing scores as well.
The running game is led by junior Reggie Arnold and red shirt freshman Derek Lawson. Arnold has 586 yards on the season with four touchdowns and Lawson follows closely with 562 yards and three touchdowns for the season.
The receiving corps is deep for the Red Wolves boasting seven players over 100 yards receiving for the year and eight averaging more that 13 yards per catch.
Junior Brandon Tompkins is their statistical leader with 18 catches for 274 yards and a touchdown. The leading touchdown receiver is junior tight end David Johnson with five.
Senior linebacker Ben Owens is the leading tackler for Ark State with 51. Owens also has two sacks and two interceptions for the season. Junior Alex Carrington is the leader in sacks with 9.5 on the season to go along with 33 tackles.
Owens two interceptions tie him for the team lead with sophomore defensive back MD Jennings.
Arkansas State’s spread offense attack might give the Tide some trouble early while the defense settles in on Saturday. Bama’s superior talent defensively will eventually (and by eventually I mean by the third possession) overwhelm the Red Wolves.
Offensively, Bama will pound the ball at the boys from Jonesboro, partly to keep the ball away from their offense, partly to shorten the game and get the heck out of there and mostly because it is what they do best.
That should open some things up in the play action passing game, leading to some big plays as the Tide gets the blow out win they need to impress the pollsters.