By Parrish Alford | NEMS Daily Journal
JONESBORO, Ark. – Arkansas State players celebrated a perfect Sun Belt Conference season and a league championship on Saturday.
Afterward they were eager to praise the coach who may not be with them much longer.
Hugh Freeze led the Red Wolves to a 45-14 win over Troy, then addressed constant speculation about his future as a hazard he was thankful to see his players work through.
Arkansas State (10-2 overall, 8-0 in the Sun Belt Conference) will play in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 8.
“I really think our kids handled it well. I probably was worse than they were, because I’m so paranoid about them being ready to play,” Freeze said. “Certainly that was a distraction in my eyes.”
Freeze said he expected to sit down with the Arkansas State administration as early as today to discuss his future.
He’s been mentioned as a strong candidate for the Ole Miss job from the day it became open, Nov. 7 when the firing of Houston Nutt was made public.
“We’re praying through that, my wife and I. It’s a tough, tough profession, because so many hearts and emotions are involved,” Freeze said.
Against Troy, the Red Wolves built a 17-0 lead with a 60-yard fumble return by Darryl Feemster and a blocked punt for a touchdown. They didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the final seconds of the first half.
Quarterback Ryan Alpin said the complete lack of “negativity” has been a factor in the six-win turnaround. He passed for 356 yards and three TDs against Troy.
Arkansas State’s no huddle spread attack finished with 489 yards of offense, 86 yards above its season average.
“Since the day they said coach Freeze was the head coach, we could just tell the whole feeling of the team was different,” Feemster said. “We had been in a lot of close games. Coach Freeze did a great job of getting us over the hump, and we’ve won some games with confidence and swagger.”