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Game Day Eve: Red Wolves Battle Illness and Tigers This Weekend

Former Auburn assistant, Trooper Taylor, returns to the Plains this weekend. (Photo: News Sentinel/Amy Smotherman Burgess)

Auburn Football returns to the field Saturday night, with plenty to work on. Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s decision to rotate quarterbacks had an effect on tempo, which played a role in last Saturday’s decision. Offensively, the unit is young, and the line is inexperienced in places. Despite all of that, the Tigers were able to end the game with a touchdown of defeating the number 2 rated team in the country.

Arkansas State comes to town this Saturday, on the heels of a 31-10 defeat by the hands of Toledo last weekend. The Red Wolves struggled on both sides of the ball against Toledo, giving up 556 total yards, while only posting 266.

“It was a rough night, and not how we wanted it to start,” said Arkansas State Head Coach, Blake Anderson following the Toledo loss. “We did not respond well, and a really good football team beat us. We have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time to get us ready for a really good opponent next week (Auburn). We have got to get some things ironed out.”

Bad news also struck the Arkansas State football team this week, as it was reported that at least 12 players had to go to the hospital due to a virus outbreak. Defensive lineman Dee Liner, and Offensive lineman Colton Jackson, both Alabama natives, are among those who have had the virus this week, and their status has not been specified at this time.

Offensively, the Red Wolves are an old bunch, as seven seniors are found on the depth chart. Do not let that number fool you, 15 players made their debut last week against Toledo, including 11 on offense. There is the possibility of seeing two quarterbacks this Saturday, Chad Voytik, and Justice Hansen. Voytik saw a majority of the snaps last week versus Toledo, completing 11 passes out of 24, for 124 yards. Voytik has the ability to scramble, as he rushed for net 38 yards last week. Hansen attempted one pass, it was incomplete. Rushing the ball was an issue last week as well. The Red Wolves rushed for a total of 142 yards, with running back Warren Wand as the leader with 77. Armond Weh-Weh scored the lone touchdown for Arkansas State in the 4th quarter, he ended with 29 rushing yards. The leading receiver is Blake Mack, with 2 receptions for 87 yards.

On defense, the player to watch is Eufaula native Xavier Woodson-Luster. Woodson-Luster finished the Toledo game with 14 total tackles, with one of those going for a loss. Much like the offense, the defense for Arkansas State is experienced as well, with 9 senior starters. Former Wide Receivers Coach Trooper Taylor will make his return to the Plains this Saturday, but as the corner backs coach for Arkansas State.

Auburn High School graduates Blaise Taylor and Cameron Echols-Luper round out the returning unit. Taylor returned 5 kicks last week, while TCU transfer Echols-Luper had only one opportunity to return a punt, he did so for 24 yards.

An interesting note about Arkansas State, is the number of players that will be returning to their home state this weekend. 13 players on the current roster hail from the Heart of Dixie, and 9 of those are listed on this week’s depth chart.

Head Coach Blake Anderson in 2014 was just the fourth Head Coach to ever win at least seven games in his first season as the head man. The other three? The three that preceded him: Hugh Freeze (2011), Bryan Harsin (2013), and current Auburn Head Coach, Gus Malzahn (2012).

The Red Wolves are also tied for 23rd in the nation with the likes of BYU, Nebraska, and Texas A&M with 44 wins over FBS opponents since 2011.

Auburn hosts Arkansas State this Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM.

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