Montgomery, Ala. – The Arkansas State football team continued its Camellia Bowl preparations Thursday with a morning practice session at Huntingdon College’s W. James Samford Jr. Stadium before a tour of the Rosa Parks Museum and dinner at the Union Station Train Shed in downtown Montgomery concluded the day’s events.
The Red Wolves began the day with a more traditional practice starting at 9:30 a.m., dressing out in shoulder pads and helmets to continue game prep ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Middle Tennessee at the Cramton Bowl. The team went through drills and competed against a scout team in offense, defense, and special teams.
The Red Wolves will face a Middle Tennessee team that has been bowl eligible nine times in the last 12 years, but this is the third straight bowl game for the Raiders to set a new school record. They are currently ranked 30th in the nation in total defense, 33rd in rushing defense and 17th in tackles for loss. The Raiders were 96th in total defense in 2016, marking an improvement of 66 spots in the national rankings this year.
“We haven’t seen anybody that is committed to disguising looks, is committed to overloading looks, and is committed to blitzing as they have been,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “We’ve seen guys do that in film in the past, but very few have carried that kind of thought process into the game because of what we do, the tempo we play at, and potentially some of the matchups. I think there will be a bit of a feeling out process because they are aggressive and blitz more than anyone we’ve seen.”
In MT’s last 19 wins, it has averaged 549.1 yards of total offense and allowed 363.5. The Blue Raiders’ offense is averaging 396.8 yards for the season, but 441.7 over the last eight games. In his two previous bowl games, senior Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill has thrown for a combined 759 yards on 56 of 90 passing attempts and seven touchdowns.
“Their offensive line is very athletic and can move really well, so we are focusing on that,” said A-State senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones. “The quarterback is very savvy too – he’s a coach’s kid, so I know he will make a lot of checks and front calls, so it will be a good challenge stopping him.”
The first of A-State’s two scheduled Camellia Bowl events Thursday was a visit to the Rosa Parks Museum, an active memorial to the life of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and the lessons of the Montgomery Bus Boycott that brought racial integration to transportation and international attention to civil rights.
“It was an amazing experience and great opportunity to learn a little bit more about history, and also see some of the things people sacrificed in order for us to be able to do what we do and live the way we live,” said A-State senior defensive back Blaise Taylor. “I think it’s good for us as a team to be able to recognize how grateful we should be for our opportunity for where we are now.”
Later Thursday evening the Red Wolves enjoyed a BBQ dinner and festivities at the Union Station Train Shed. A-State will hold its final practice of the 2017 season tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the Cramton Bowl following a 30-minute press conference at the stadium.
A Montgomery Advertiser Street Fest will be held at the Union Station Train Shed tomorrow from 4-6 p.m. An Arkansas State pep rally at the same location is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and the Montgomery Christmas Parade will take place at 6:15 p.m. (Dexter Street to Commerce Street).