Arkansas State may have lost at just the right time in just the right way. The Red Wolves were unbeaten going into the Mid-South season-ending contest against Life. They lost to the Running Eagles, but secured two bonus points and a first-round home game, so the loss didn’t affect their postseason plans.
The Red Wolves also now have the desire to rebound against Kutztown in the quarterfinals, which could help keep ASU from overlooking the Golden Bears to a potential rubber match with Life in the semifinals. And the Red Wolves are now free of the pressure that comes with being undefeated. Last season, Life swept the ASU in the regular season, but the Red Wolves advanced further in the playoffs.
“You come off a hard loss and then the next game is your focus, because you want to get back on top of it and get back on the boost,” said ASU senior outside center Zac Mizell.
“So it’s hard to look past Kutztown just because we’re coming off a loss, which I think in the end is really going to help us through the playoffs. But we’re always aware of where Life is in the bracket either way.”
Mizell is coming off a nasty foot injury that had him sidelined the entire season until the last Life game. A senior, Mizell didn’t know a few months ago if he would ever get to play for Arkansas State again. So he’s grateful to have gotten back in time for a home playoff game.
“I’m looking forward to getting to play at home at least one time, and hopefully twice, depending on what happens in the other game,” said Mizell.
“You’re counting down the games, and it’s different thinking this could be my last time to play in Jonesboro, because it’s been such a long time and such a good ride that you’re always going to feel like something’s winding down to the end and you want to end it in the best way possible.”
If Arkansas State beats Kutztown Saturday, and Life beats Army, the Running Eagles will travel to ASU for the semifinal round. But if Army beats Life, the Black Knights will host the semis in West Point.
Using his best coach speak, Mizell said the Red Wolves are more worried about themselves than what Kutztown has to offer, but he did mention a couple of Golden Bears who could be troublesome.
“We’ve seen a little bit of film of them. In the backline we’re just trying to concentrate on playing our game mainly,” he said.
“I know a couple of guys, like Tim Acker, I’ve played him a few times. He’s a good player. [Robert Stortz] at outside center is pretty fast, so we’ve got them marked up as much as we can, but we’re really just trying to do what we do to the best and we hope to control the game instead of play down to it.”