JONESBORO — Arkansas State is more than halfway through game week preparations.
Three days down, one more to go, and the Red Wolves kick it off again.
Arkansas State faces the challenge of preparing for its Sun Belt Conference opener on short rest this week. The Red Wolves are gearing up for Thursday night’s matchup with Troy following a 38-9 loss at Auburn last Saturday.
The quick turnaround leaves less time for healing, film study or game planning. But it’s not as bad as it sounds, according to new ASU coach Bryan Harsin.
“A short week, the turnaround really becomes a mindset,” Harsin said on Monday. “It’s really about what I think football is about — it’s about toughness. You’ve got to be able to get yourself back. The loss (to Auburn) adds more to it, so you’ve got to get yourself re-motivated and you’ve got to get yourself picked back up and you’ve got to do it in a short amount of time.”
ASU and Troy square off at Liberty Bank Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.
Arkansas State (1-1) will try to rebound from a disappointing defeat at Auburn in which the Red Wolves moved the football but had a hard time scoring.
ASU finished with 422 yards offense and drove inside Auburn’s 25-yard line on five occasions. But three of those drives ended with field goals and the other two ended on downs.
“Our short-yardage situations and our fourth-down situations — they were not good,” Harsin stated.
It was the first time in 55 games Arkansas State failed to score a touchdown in a game. The last time the Red Wolves were held out of the end zone was by No. 2-ranked Alabama on Nov. 1, 2008.
Harsin said the Red Wolves will emphasize red zone work this week.
“When you don’t score in the red zone, I don’t know what else there is to say. It just needs to be better,” Harsin said. “ … We’ve got to do a better job in the red zone and we’ve got to prepare better, and that falls back on me.”
Saturday night’s game at Auburn was a physical contest, although the Red Wolves did not sustain any injuries that should keep anyone out of their matchup with Troy (2-0).
Quarterback Adam Kennedy, who passed for 272 yards and rushed for 74, was knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter when he was hit late out of bounds. But after one play on the sideline, Kennedy returned to finish the final series.
Cornerback Rocky Hayes tweaked his hamstring on a deep pass that went for a 68-yard touchdown late in the first half. Hayes did not return in the second half, but he practiced with the team Monday and is expected to play Thursday.
Also, cornerback Andrew Tryon suffered a hit that knocked him out of the game but was able to return, too.
Harsin said the biggest challenge of the short week was having enough time to recover from the physicality of the contest.
“I’ve played in short weeks quite a bit and the only thing about a short week is the recovery,” Harsin said. “That’s really it, especially when you play a football game like we did. You don’t have that same recovery time as a player. You’ve got to have yourself back and ready to go. Normally, they have a couple of days there where they get themselves (ready).”
Kennedy said the shot he took from Auburn’s Justin DeLaine, who was penalized for a late hit, hurt but that he would be fine.
Kennedy was a little foggy and couldn’t immediately return from the hit, but he wanted to get back in as soon as he could. He said recovering from hits like the one he took is the biggest challenge the Red Wolves face this week.
“With a quick turnaround, a lot of it is going to be some bruised bodies … but we’ll be OK,” Kennedy said. “After a loss like this, which is a major disappointment, a quick turnaround is kind of nice mentally. You get to move on quick.”
Harsin said the short week is a blessing in some respects.
His team turns its attention to a new opponent and doesn’t have time to dwell on the loss to Auburn. At the same time, with the game being the Sun Belt opener, it should refocus the Red Wolves, who are looking for a third consecutive conference title.
“As far as a prep standpoint, I’ve never minded short weeks, to be honest with you,” Harsin said. “I think they kind of give you a little more sense of urgency. You get things up, and you get your stuff in and you get ready to play.”
The Red Wolves are of a similar opinion.
“We kind of like the quick turnaround,” ASU linebacker Qushaun Lee said. “We just came off a loss, so we want to put to this behind us and play our next game.”