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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

From the Jonesboro, Ark., Sun:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Littleton to start Saturday

By Kevin Turbeville
Sun staff writer
JONESBORO ? Linebacker was one of Arkansas State?s question marks when the season began.
After six games, the Indians are still trying to find some of the answers.
ASU is making a change at linebacker after yielding 457 rushing yards and 554 total in a 39-36 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette a week ago. Chris Littleton will replace junior classmate Eli Ellis as the starter at ?Will,? or weakside, linebacker Saturday night.
Littleton, a former safety known for hard hits, has played some snaps as a backup this year. Ellis has 26 tackles in a starting role.
?Eli is still getting work in practice, but Chris will start the ballgame and hopefully he?ll bring some physicalness and some experience to that position,? ASU head coach Steve Roberts said at his press conference Wednesday. ?Even though he has never played linebacker before this year, he has been on the field and hopefully that will help us out defensively.?
ASU (3-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) is preparing for its first meeting with Sun Belt newcomer Florida Atlantic (1-6, 1-2). Saturday?s Homecoming game at Indian Stadium is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
While the Indians rank among the league leaders in a number of offensive categories, they are in the lower half of the Sun Belt in key defensive statistics. ASU ranks seventh out of eight teams in total defense, allowing 430.7 yards per game, and is also seventh in pass defense. The Indians are fifth in rushing defense.
In three conference games, ASU has allowed an average of 474.3 yards, the highest in the league.
?Defensively, again, we have not played well, really, in our conference games,? Roberts said. ?We?ve played the three best offensive football teams in our league to this point and we continue to work, especially with those young linebackers and get them in position to make more plays.?
ASU went into the season without either of last year?s starting linebackers. Junior college transfer Devrett Wade, the Indians? middle linebacker, is the team?s top tackler with 49 total tackles. Sophomore Koby McKinnon, a former safety who has consistently graded well, has 25 tackles as the starting ?Sam? linebacker.
The inexperienced Indian linebackers have had their hands full with spread offenses. UL Lafayette repeatedly burned ASU with the option.
?We?ve seen that from Missouri, Oklahoma State, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette, the spread stuff,? Roberts said. ?We?ve tried a number of different things. Last week it wasn?t a scheme issue at all. It was making plays.
?When we were in the right place to make plays, we didn?t make them. There were several mistakes that we made getting in the wrong gaps just by not concentrating and focusing on our assignments, hence the change there with Littleton replacing Eli.?
Roberts said the Indian defensive line had average grades against UL Lafayette. He gave the secondary decent marks, adding that free safety Khayyam Burns played the game with a stinger and missed some tackles he normally would make.
Roberts said FAU uses a lot of two-back sets. Containing Danny Embick, the Owls? senior quarterback, is a key for the Indians.
Embick ranks second among Sun Belt quarterbacks in passing average (182.4 yards per game) and pass efficiency (127.4 rating). He is also a threat to run the ball.
?We?ve got to get pressure on him,? Roberts said. ?Sometimes the pressure leads to the quarterback being able to scramble, because when you send and turn your guys loose up front, the offensive line gets on them and they can get washed out of their rush lanes.
?We have to stay in our rush lanes and keep him in the pocket. When we force him out of the pocket, hopefully we?ll force him laterally rather than what he was able to do last week (against Middle Tennessee) and that?s find room up the middle.?
After saying the Indians made some of the same mistakes throughout the UL Lafayette game, Roberts praised the defense?s effort.
Wade was used as an example.
?A case in point was Devrett Wade getting off the ground after executing his assignment and chasing the quarterback down field 25, 30 yards, finally catching him and punching the ball out,? Roberts said. ?Those three turnovers (forced by ASU) led to scores that we had to have in order to win the ballgame. There were some positive things that we can build on and the effort was one of those things.?

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When: Saturday
Where: Indian Stadium
Kickoff: 6 p.m.
Records: ASU 3-3, 2-1 SBC; Florida Atlantic 1-6, 1-2
Series: First meeting
TV: The game will be televised as part of the ESPN Plus package, but will not be available on Cox cable.
Tickets: $17, $14, $10; ASU students free with valid ID
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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

The paper in Little Rock, the largest in the state, has a story on Coach Schnellenberger with a nice photo on the main sports page today. Unfortunately, that paper requires $4.95 a month for an online subscription. I decided against signing up. In case anyone is interested, it is the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

From the Arkansas State University Herald (student paper):

Tribe ready for homecoming against FAU

By Andrew J. Wilson
October 20, 2005

The ASU football squad returns to the gridiron Saturday against Florida Atlantic, on Homecoming at Indian Stadium.
The Tribe (3-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) will look to improve to 4-0 this season in Jonesboro, and stay in the hunt for their first ever Sun Belt football championship.

ASU will have senior RB Antonio Warren back for the first time in a month Saturday, as he returns from a high ankle sprain.

?Antonio?s ready to roll,? ASU Head Coach Steve Roberts said at his weekly press conference Wednesday, ?Antonio will start the ball game at tailback for us.?

Warren ranked sixth in the nation in rushing prior to his injury, averaging 131 yards per contest. Fellow senior RB Shermar Bracey started during Warren?s absence, piling up 159 yards and two touchdowns in the two games Warren missed.

Coach Roberts said he has been pleased with the play of senior QB Nick Noce and his offense this season.

?Nick is playing extremely well, along with our offensive line opening up holes for our running backs,? Roberts said.

Noce currently stands 28th in the nation in passing efficiency amongst NCAA Division 1-A quarterbacks.

Roberts stressed the importance of a large crowd Saturday.

?Our fans play a huge role in our success here at Indian Stadium,? Roberts said. ?The energy that we can draw from the fans as we come out of the locker room on to the field and when you make big plays, can actually change the tide of a football game, and the fans are a huge part of that,? Roberts added.

In the midst of their inaugural year in the Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic (1-6, 1-2 Sun Belt) and legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger have taken their hits against a tough non-conference schedule. Schnellenberger has won 127 games in his college career and has a national championship.

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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

From KAIT-TV, Jonesboro, Ark.:

Indian Football
Steve Robets Press Conference

October 19, 2005

Jonesboro – The following are excerpts from ASU football coach Steve Roberts during his weekly press conference.

?It was a very exciting game, there is no doubt about that. It was a tale of three quarters and a quarter, I guess, for our football team. I thought we played very well offensively, actually played well offensively all throughout the ball game, but the first three quarters we just couldn?t finish a couple of drives. The offensive line really set the tone for our football team in that game. They had their best overall game as a unit this past week. (Center) Tanner Jenkins continues to lead that group and played very well. Shermar Bracey continued to fill in for Antonio Warren and had a heck of a night. It was his best performance as an Indian with over 160 yards rushing and two touchdowns, a touchdown catch out of the backfield. He really played an outstanding ball game. He?s the first back since we?ve been here to achieve all five of the individual running back goals in the course of a ball game. The receivers played well. Levi Dejohnette had a big ball game and showcased his talents a little bit. I was real proud of the way we caught the ball across the middle of the field and made some real key first downs and picked up big chunks of yardage there. Nick Noce continues to play extremely well. He?s playing very smart and also very gutsy. He really took the ball game into his hands late in the fourth quarter, the last minute of the ball game, and played outstanding and took care of our football team and made the plays we had to have in order to win. Special teams-wise, I was real pleased with three areas of our game. Our kickoff return team set up scores that we had to have in order for us to be successful. Eric Neihouse coming in and drilling a 35-yard field goal with four seconds to go won the ball game for us. That was a pressure-packed kick and I was real pleased with the way he was able to maintain his composure and stick that kick through. Kickoff team played well. Eric had three touchbacks and we tackled well. Defensively, we did not play well. We made some of the same mistakes throughout the course of the ball game that we thought we had corrected there after the first couple of series of the ball game and we continued to make those mistakes. You have to give Louisiana-Lafayette a lot of credit, it was by far their best performance of the year. Their offensive line played extremely physical and came together. (ULL quarterback Michael) Desormeaux showcased his ability as well. He?s a heck of a competitor and a great athlete and we were unable to get it done there. But we did keep working. The one thing that we did do well is we played extremely hard. Case in point was (linebacker) Devrett Wade getting off the ground after executing his assignment, chasing the quarterback down the field 25 or 30 yards and finally catching and punching the ball out. Those three turnovers led to scores we had to have in order to win the ball game. There were some positive things there that we can build on and the effort was one of those things. I?m excited about moving into this football game with the effort we?re having across the board.
?Defensively, we?ve not played well in our conference games. We?ve played the three best offensive teams in our league, to this point, and we continue to work, especially with those young linebackers, to get them in position to make more plays. Koby McKinnon continues to play very well for our football team. We?re going to make a change at the ?Will? linebacker position with Chris Littleton stepping in for Elias Ellis at that spot. Elias is still getting work in practice but Chris will start the ball game. Hopefully he will bring some physical-ness and experience to that position even though he?s never played linebacker before this year, he has been on the field a lot, hopefully that will help us out defensively.

?They are really a good football team that has played a very difficult schedule. You look at who they?ve played in Minnesota, Louisville, Kansas and Oklahoma State, they?ve had a very difficult non-conference schedule and now they find themselves 1-2 in conference after a narrow loss to Louisiana-Monroe where they threw an interception late in the ball game that basically won the ball game for Monroe. They come back and convincingly beat Louisiana-Lafayette and struggled last week with Middle Tennessee. The key to stopping their offense is containing the quarterback (Danny) Embick. He?s a very good quarterback. He has an outstanding arm, can make a lot of plays scrambling and running with the football. They?ve found a running game the last couple of weeks, especially in the Louisiana-Monroe game, able to run the football better than they have throughout the course of the first part of the season. They have some outstanding receivers, as you would expect in Florida, with the speed and their ability to go get the football. They?re very young up front in the offensive line.
?Defensively, they?re led by (linebacker) Shomari Earls. He?s an outstanding linebacker. He?s one of the few experienced football players they had coming back, defensively, and he plays like it. He?s the leader of that group, I think that is evident on the film when you break them down. He?s a guy that can make plays anywhere across the board. They are also very talented in the secondary. (Cornerback Willie) Hughley is an outstanding corner, and their strong safety (Kris Bartels) is the leading tackler on their football team, he?s a very active player. They are young up front on the defensive line like they are on the offensive line.
?They are very solid in the kicking game. They?ve been solid and productive in what they do.

?You can tell on film he?s an outstanding competitor. He?s smart, he knows where to go with the football, he?s athletic enough to make you miss and make positive yardage. Last week against Middle Tennessee he had 61 yards just scrambling when he was forced from the pocket, he was able to make people miss and make some big plays for their football team. He?s got a strong arm, something that Coach (Howard) Schnellenberger told me this summer that he?s found a way to get that backup quarterback in the ball game over the last few years that he?s been a coach and Embick was able to play a lot last year as a backup, and I think you see that experience in him now.?

?Obviously, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and what he?s been able to accomplish in our business, with winning national championships at Miami, with what he was able to do at Louisville in turning that program around. He was the quarterback coach of the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins, coached some of the best quarterbacks ever to play college football at Alabama under Bear Bryant. It?s like a dream to see what he?s been able to accomplish as a football coach, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.
?But the bottom line is, it won?t be a coaching match up of me against Howard Schnellenberger. The match ups lie with the 11 players that are out on the field for each football team and how well they play and how well they execute.

?I think that there are a lot of factors involved in that. Coach Schnellenberger and his staff are a huge factor in that on selling those kids the vision of coming to Florida Atlantic when there wasn?t a fieldhouse or anything down there to sell a kid when there wasn?t even a schedule that first recruiting class. It is a tribute to those young men for buying into that and how hard and well they?ve played as a 1-AA football team, making tremendous progress in a very rapid time. They peaked, pretty much, last year for the first time and you see a peak coming for them again in the future. We hope that future is not Saturday, but we know when they?re going to come. I?m sure of the exact numbers, but I think they graduated 38 or 39 seniors last year. Many of those guys were four year starters, and when you have guys that are fifth-year players and four year starters, you should have a good football team. They had a great football team last year.?
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Arkansas Newspaper Coverage

This is a link to the Demo-zette article

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