Arkansas State remains the only undefeated Sun Belt team after Louisiana-Lafayette lost 42-23 at Western Kentucky on Saturday. With a record of 5-2 (3-0), the Red Wolves are off to the football program’s best start since joining the Sun Belt in 1991.
The strong start has helped Hugh Freeze keep alive much of the enthusiasm leading into this season, his first as Red Wolves head coach. This was pretty evident to me on a Friday visit to Jonesboro, where I saw all types of puns riffing/capitalizing on dude’s last name. The slogan “Feel the Freeze” is plastered all over billboards and shopfronts. Andy’s Frozen Custard, just a few blocks south of the stadium, brandishes perhaps the most delicious pun of all: the “Coach Freeze,” a shake made from strawberry and vanilla ice cream mixed with soda water.
While purchasing my own $4 “Coach Freeze,” I asked if Andy’s had in previous years also dished out a “Coach Roberts,” named after the team’s former coach Steve Roberts. The cashier girl only giggled, but I really wanted to know.
Arkansas State has its best shot at going to its first bowl game in six years. The strong start helps, as does the fact the Sun Belt picked up a second bowl tie-in a couple years ago. Before 2010, only the New Orleans Bowl accepted a Sun Belt team each year. These days, the GoDaddy.com bowl is an annual destination too.
No matter what bowl Arkansas State ends up in, you gotta believe it’ll have a strong shot at victory there. The Red Wolves’ innovative offense, after all, is pushing the boundaries of conventional spread offense with a trick play propensity and hurry-up tempo few programs can match. It may end up that Hugh Freeze is recognized as a pioneer of sorts – a forward-looking coach from another time.
I, for one, kind of wished he had coached ASU in the 1950s. That’s when the program played in two Refrigerator Bowls*, a setting in which Freeze should have felt right at home.
*ASU beat Camp Breckinridge 46-12 in 1951, but lost 34-19 to Western Kentucky in 1952. Both bowl games were played in Evansville, Ind.