Winner takes all
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 16:11
In two days the Red Wolves football team will compete in its last conference battle against the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee. Saturday’s game is a winner-take-all, as both teams will take the field with conference records of 6-1.
“Our players and coaches are extremely excited that this game will be happening at home,” head coach Gus Malzahn said.
ASU hopes to continue with the momentum. The Thanksgiving break gave the team a bye week before its final game allowing the Red Wolves to regain composure.
“I am not going to say we are 100 percent, but we have had a week to heal some guys up, and we are hoping that everyone plays. It is that time of year where very few people are going to be 100 percent, but this is for the championship and they want it,” Malzahn said.
What looked to be a rough start for the Red Wolves from the assembling of a whole new coaching staff, learning a new spread offensively and defensively along with the overall schedule facing two nationally ranked BCS teams and the odd scheduling of longer break periods to the back to back mid-week games the pack has beat all the odds controlling its own destiny.
A shared view between both senior linebacker Nathan Herrold and senior quarterback Ryan Aplin, ASU’s turning point came after the Red Wolves conference opener against Western Kentucky resulting in a 13-26 loss.
“The game set the tone and we knew what we had to do and take care of business from there on out,” Aplin said.
The Blue Raiders have won six of the last nine meetings and own a 3-3 record at Liberty Bank Stadium.
MTSU struggled with injuries and has not taken the “under dog” predictions lightly as each week the Blue Raiders proved to be a team fighting against the odds, not looking at injuries as handicaps.
Senior running back Benny Cunningham, receivers Tavarres Jefferson and Marcus Henry along with leading receiver Anothony Amos, two cornerbacks and No.5 ranked kick returners in the nation Reggie Whatley stand in the uncertainty of playing in Saturday’s game.
The SBC announced Senior Don Jones has been suspended for the first half of the game. Jones was ejected from the ASU game against Troy Nov. 17 for a flagrant personal foul. “I’m disappointed that he isn’t playing the whole game, but that is the rules and we are going to abide by them,” Malzahn said.
Each week the Red Wolves have taken control of their destiny striving with one goal to be SBC champs.
“We have had high expectations all year, and I have been very proud of our guys since conference has started and the amount of pressure there was placed on them after the hole from the Western Kentucky game,” Malzahn said.
The Red Wolves will be fighting to perform, fighting for perfection and fighting to keep the intensity high.
“This is the situation every college athlete wants to be in. This is for all the hard work we have put in during the 110 degree day practices in the summer, it is the dream and this is for everything,” Aplin said.
Saturday’s outcome will not only be for the SBC title, but the last time the senior Red Wolves take the field at Liberty Bank Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN3.