ASU begins second half against Sun Belt favorite FIU Panthers

By Daniel McFadin
On October 16, 2011

For the second straight year, Arkansas State will have the college football world to itself when the Red Wolves host Sun Belt pre-season favorite Florida International Tuesday night on ESPN2.

The Red Wolves (4-2, 2-0) come into their first home game since Sept. 24, riding their first three-game win streak since 2006.

That year was also the last time the school won four straight games in route to a 6-6 season.

This will be the second straight year that an ASU home game will be the only nationally televised college football game on the air.

"I did think that our kids had a little upbeat attitude about playing on a national stage, and I thought that was probably our best game of the year offensively."

The offense has been playing at the same levels as last year, with junior quarterback Ryan Aplin leading an offense that averages 464 yards per game (fourth in SBC) and 28.7 points per game (third in SBC).

Aplin is averaging 274.3 yards passing on the season, but also has six touchdowns to eight interceptions after throwing three picks against Louisiana Monroe last week.

Wommack's Success

Any mistakes the offense makes against Florida International (4-2, 2-1) have a good chance at being bailed out of by Dave Wommack's defense.

Wommack's defense ranks first in the Sun Belt in total defense (344.8 ypg), pass defense (220.0 ypg), pass defense efficiency while tying with Louisiana- Lafayette and FIU for interceptions (eight) and scoring defense (21.2 ppg) respectively.

"In my eyes I always want it better," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.

"We've added to the defense as the weeks have gone on, some different packages. I would like to see us play with our eyes a little bit better and eliminate some of the big plays. Other than that, we're making progress."

Fear the Feemster

That progress includes not allowing individual 100-yard rushers all season and an average of 2.7 sacks per game.

The pass defense will have to stop a quarterback, senior Wesley Carroll, who has the best passing efficiency in the Sun Belt at 140 percent.

"I actually coached against him when I was at Ole Miss. I know he had a good game against us last year, and he looks very solid on film," Freeze said. "He's taking care of the ball for them. He knows who to get it to."

He will have to be even more careful Tuesday with senior cornerback Darryl Feemster on the field for the Red Wolves.

Feemster has picked off three passes over the course of the last four games.

Feemster attributes it to being both in the right place at the right time and being able to get to the ball.

"The coaches have been really great at letting me play different techniques and thankfully I've been able to come up with the ball," Feemster said.

"Coach Wommack is a just a genius. We have a lot of different packages and we just bring a lot of different things to the table.

"So I think it's a little bit harder for teams to prepare because we're not so basic." Feemster continued.

Taking Care of Hilton

One of Carroll's biggest targets is senior wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Hilton, who has 37 catches for 641 yards and four touchdowns through six games, is the most dangerous player in the Sun Belt.

"I think he's proven that over time," Freeze said. "It's not just a one game deal – it's an every game deal. He single handily beat Louisville if you put that tape on."

On Sept. 9, Hilton caught sevens passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns of 74 and 83-yards as Hilton led the Panthers to their first win against the Louisville.

"I know that they have other athletes at receiver also, but we've certainly got to find a way to minimize the yards after catch for Hilton and the long one over our head to him," Freeze said.

Feemster said that having senior wider receiver Dwayne Frampton on their team in practice has made preparing for Hilton easier.

Frampton has 47 catches for 606 yards and three touchdowns in the half of the season, while averaging 12.9 yards per catch.

Finishing the Job

The Red Wolves have over come many obstacles this season that have plagued them in the past.

The belief that defense wins games and championships is being validated in Jonesboro this season and will face one of its biggest conference tests Tuesday night.

"I know that everyone is excited about us having four wins and being 2-0 in the Conference," Freeze said.

"But we need to finish well to keep that momentum and to get where we want to get. To build a program, we've got to find a way to finish a season and not be satisfied with accomplishing two road wins."

ASU leads this series 4-2 after FIU won last year 31-24.

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at ASU Stadium and is being aired on ESPN2 and can be heard on 107.9 FM.

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