JONESBORO — GoDaddy Bowl preparations are underway again at Arkansas State.
The Red Wolves held their first post-Christmas practice Saturday morning at Centennial Bank Stadium, turning their focus to the game plan for the Jan. 5 contest against Ball State in Mobile, Ala. ASU held five practices before Christmas, then took a week off for the holiday.
“It was loud, it was fast,” interim head coach John Thompson said after Saturday’s practice, which lasted roughly 90 minutes. “Until I get in there and look at the tape I’m not going to say it was good, but today was the first day that we really threw all of Ball State at them. So there’s a whole lot of things we’ve got to get right.
“From one aspect it was good with the effort and enthusiasm. I didn’t see any lack of effort; maybe a couple of little brother-in-laws here and there, you know, I’m not going to go hard and you don’t go hard. From an execution standpoint and getting done what we’re supposed to get done, we still need the rest of the week.”
The Red Wolves (7-5) have plenty of time to get ready for the Cardinals (10-2).
ASU is scheduled to practice again today, Monday and Tuesday in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves leave Wednesday for Mobile, where the Sun Belt Conference co-champions will resume preparations for the GoDaddy Bowl.
Co-offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan said ASU was a little sluggish Saturday.
“I think that’s to be expected,” Hamdan added. “Obviously we have to use these next three, four practices before we get to Mobile to get back in sync a little bit, but I think the players are coming out here ready to go and we’re excited about the experience.”
Hamdan said ASU has put in about 75 percent of its offensive game plan for Ball State, the Mid-American Conference representative in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves will go over it again this week and add some wrinkles for the Cardinals.
Timing is a concern offensively after a long layoff between games. Both ASU and Kent State had impressive offensive statistics going into last season’s GoDaddy Bowl, but the defenses held the upper hand for most of a game the Red Wolves won 17-13.
ASU hasn’t played since Nov. 30, when the Red Wolves lost 34-31 at Western Kentucky. Ball State has been off since beating Miami (Ohio) 55-14 on Nov. 29.
“It always is tough,” Hamdan said. “I think it’s a little bit of a unique experience too for us, having about three days (in Jonesboro) and then we have a big travel day, then actually getting two more practices before our walk-through when we get down there. John Thompson has done a great job of scheduling this thing right, making sure we’re getting enough reps. We’ll be ready to go.”
Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy, who suffered a knee injury against Western Kentucky, went through non-contact drills Saturday. He is expected to be ready for the bowl game.
Senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers was also in a green no-contact jersey, but went through a number of drills and said he should be a full participant in today’s practice. Carrethers missed practices before Christmas because of a knee injury.
Senior running back David Oku missed Saturday’s practice. Thompson said flight delays kept Oku from arriving as scheduled, but he was expected to join the team later Saturday.
“I think we got some things done,” Carrethers said when asked about Saturday’s practice. “It’s obvious we’ve got some improvement we need to make overall, but I think things are coming along pretty smoothly.”
Thompson said he wasn’t disappointed in what ASU accomplished Saturday.
“We’ll go and watch the tape and we know there’s going to be some trash on the tape, but we’re going to practice (today) and we’re going to get it fixed,” Thompson said. “How fast we get that fixed, that’s really the key.”