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ASU holds steady on offensive views

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Photographs by STEPHEN B. THORNTON

ASU's head coach Blake Anderson

JONESBORO -- Sorting out the program's most turnovers in a single game in 11 years, Arkansas State University Coach Blake Anderson took ownership for the last interception in the Red Wolves' 24-19 loss at South Alabama on Saturday.

With 1:34 left to play at the ASU 46, redshirt junior quarterback Justice Hansen attempted to throw an inside pass to senior receiver Christian Booker, who was running straight up the field. South Alabama safety Jeremy Reaves cut off the route and snagged the interception, stopping ASU's last shot at a comeback.

Saturday’s game

Texas State at ARKANSAS STATE

WHEN 2 p.m.

WHERE Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

RECORDS Arkansas State 5-3, 4-1 Sun Belt Conference; Texas State 2-8, 1-5

TV None

INTERNET ESPN3

It was the sixth turnover of the game for the Red Wolves -- the most since they committed six in a 29-0 loss to Florida Atlantic in 2006 -- and it became the second interception of the season that Anderson publicly blamed on himself.

In the 43-36 loss to Nebraska on Sept. 2, Anderson "took full credit" for a third-quarter interception where he said he didn't account for a defensive back that ended up disrupting the play.

Anderson took over play-calling duties this season, which had previously belonged to offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. Anderson called plays when the Red Wolves averaged 40 points a game in 2015, before averaging 27.3 during Faulkner's first season.

The two coaches have different vantage points during games: Faulkner has a bird's-eye view of opposing defenses from the press box, while Anderson has a horizontal view from the sideline.

That view, Anderson said Monday, prevented himself from accounting for South Alabama's Reaves.

"I did a poor job of seeing it," Anderson said at ASU's weekly news conference. "We were being aggressive right there, and it was two minutes on the clock. No timeouts. They were playing us [by] kind of funneling us back inside. I put [Hansen] in a position where I didn't give him a lot of answers. I learned from it. I make mistakes too."

It's an issue that drove former coach Bryan Harsin to turn over his play-calling duties in the middle of the 2013 season.

ASU had just totaled 168 offensive yards in a 23-7 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, which left the team with a 3-4 record.

The Red Wolves won five of their next six games while averaging 374.2 yards and 31 points per game after Harsin shifted play-calling upstairs.

"I think that's where you need to be," Harsin said then. "You've got all your charts, you've got all your flow, you can look at everything, you can write down the next sequence of drives, and you can look at what you're getting and what you're doing efficiently and you're able to come back and make adjustments."

Anderson called plays from the sideline during his first two seasons when ASU broke school records for total offensive yards (476.5 per game in 2014) and points scored (40 per game in 2015).

This season, ASU has the nation's 16th-ranked scoring offense (37.8 points per game) and 29th-ranked total offense (453.3 yards per game). The team also has thrown the seventh-most interceptions (12).

"I'm still getting used to seeing things from the field," said Anderson, who was an offensive coordinator for 10 years before he was hired at ASU. "I've seen them from the box for 20-some-odd years. There's obviously things I saw better when I got back on tape. We've got to do a good job communicating."

Five coaches -- including Anderson and Faulkner -- are connected with headsets during games.

Faulkner said Saturday's play that resulted in the game-ending interception had been run "several times before that" and that he didn't "think it was a bad play call by any stretch of the imagination."*

"I thought we may have just worked the wrong side," he added. "You look back, and you probably could have gone to the [opposite side of the] field. The tight end on the open seam. But it's just stuff we've got to work through."

ASU recorded its lowest offensive yard total (365) of the season against South Alabama, a week after the Red Wolves had to overcome a 14-7 halftime deficit in their 37-21 victory at New Mexico State.

ASU's 66 rushing yards against South Alabama also were its lowest total since recording 65 rushing yards in a 43-25 victory over Georgia Southern.

Anderson said it's too early for a drastic change in either play-calling or offensive philosophy.

"We didn't get to a point where we're averaging 40 points a game by not being able to score points and not being able to move the ball," he said. "We can't let one game, one bad game, take us from what we believe in."

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Arkansas State Coach Blake Anderson talks on his headset during the second half of the Sept. 2 game against Nebraska in Linco... + Enlarge

Sports on 11/14/2017

*CORRECTION: Arkansas State University offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner said a play that resulted in the game-ending interception against South Alabama on Saturday had been run “several times before that.” A previous version of this article misrepresented what Faulkner said about the play.

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