JONESBORO — Arkansas State should feel rested and ready.
After a quick turnaround for a midweek matchup with Troy, the Red Wolves took an extended break over the weekend to get their legs back underneath them. After four days away from the football field, Arkansas State returns to practice this afternoon to prepare for its next test Saturday at rival Memphis.
During his weekly press conference Monday, ASU coach Bryan Harsin said his team was given the weekend off following their win over Troy last Thursday. He hopes they come back sharp and focused for the next task.
“It really comes at a good time, going into the fourth week,” Harsin said of the break. “As we come back to tomorrow’s practice, we should be full speed for the entire week for 20 periods (each day). There should be no hesitation and the guys understand that, so they know what the mentality is for tomorrow.”
Arkansas State held on for a 41-34 win in its Sun Belt Conference opener last week, taking the lead with just under 4 minutes to play and then holding on with a late defensive stand.
It was an exhausting game that took extra effort to pull out the win, Harsin said.
The Trojans ran 95 offensive plays compared to Arkansas State’s 78 in a fast-paced battle that took a toll on both teams. The two teams combined for 1,153 yards total offense on the night, with Troy putting up over 500 yards passing.
“That was a physical game,” Harsin said. “I thought the Troy game would be physical and it was.”
A week earlier Arkansas State was unable to produce in the red zone and lost at Auburn 38-9. ASU had five chances inside Auburn’s 25-yard line but settled for three field goals and turned ball over on downs twice.
Against Troy, though, Arkansas State was much more effective after spending a good part of its preparations focused on red zone work.
Arkansas State moved the football inside the Trojans’ red zone on four different possessions and scored touchdowns on each trip. ASU also had a pair of long-yardage scores.
Harsin was pleased with how the Red Wolves operated deep inside Troy territory with the shorter field and less space.
“Red zone offense was emphasized last week and we were perfect in the red zone,” Harsin said. “The prior week we weren’t, we were very poor. Now we have to emphasize these things from this last game and hopefully the red zone (success) continues and the turnovers continue.”
Arkansas State (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) took advantage of four Troy turnovers to beat the Trojans for the third straight year.
The Red Wolves intercepted Troy quarterback Corey Robinson three times and also recovered a fumble. ASU has committed three turnovers while creating five this season.
Harsin said ASU is “pretty healthy” as a team heading into the Memphis game.
Quarterback Adam Kennedy was 20-for-34 for 282 yards and a touchdown against Troy. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes this season and has not thrown an interception in 87 attempts.
After rushing for 74 yards at Auburn, Kennedy ran for just 17 against Troy. He took several shots from Trojan defenders and walked with a noticeable limp throughout the night.
Harsin said the injury was nothing serious, brushing it off as a muscle strain.
“He’ll be fine,” Harsin said “I think he had a little strain in his leg. I don’t know if he was tightening up or what but he was feeling something out there. He was kind of hobbling around a little bit and we ran a zone read play and he ripped off about 10 yards and looked the best he’s looked.”
Arkansas State has beaten Memphis in four of the last five meetings, although the Tigers lead the overall series 28-23-5. Last year, ASU overcame several special teams breakdowns to beat Memphis 33-28 in Jonesboro.
Saturday’s meeting is set for 3:30 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl.
Harsin hopes to have a good week of preparation as the Red Wolves play their next two games away from home. After taking a few days off, he expects them to come back energized for their rival.
“Tomorrow’s practice should be the best we’ve had,” Harsin said. “They should be feeling good coming into it, their legs should be good, all those little nicks and bruises and bumps should be healed up and those guys should be ready to go.”