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It was just that Life lost a close game to BYU earlier in the process.

Former Cal All American Alex Houser, who now coaches ASU with Matt Huckaby having to concentrate on other things, hasn’t forgotten.

“We look at it as, we lost three games last year,” he said. “We are trying to challenge ourselves and we look at last year and say, sure, we played well, but we never played a full 80 minutes. We want to be able to win those games.”

This is what Arkansas State did this past weekend by coming back to beat Life 28-22. The victory in Jonesboro put many on notice that ASU is not done improving.

“We were playing into the wind in the first half, and then Paris charged down that kick,” said Houser, who also played with and coached at Life. Life prop Paris Hollis’s chargedown and try gave the Running Eagles a seemingly commanding 16-5 lead. “But the key for us was that the guys did not hang their heads. They didn’t panic. They responded as a team and were smart about it.”

Smart in that they didn’t try to eliminate the deficit in five minutes. It took time. They scored a penalty, then a couple of tries. But getting the lead took time, and they didn’t hold it, as ASU flyhalf Patrick Sullivan and Life fullback Joe Cowley kept trading kicks.

“I had an OK day, but I missed a few too,” said Sullivan. “Joe is such a great kicker, you know they can get points.”

“Pat Sullivan did a really good job matching Joe Cowley kick for kick,” countered Houser. “In this kind of game you have to go for points. It takes discipline to make that decision, and the guys were smart.

This game, then, means more than just a game in the standings. It’s a step forward for Arkansas State. It’s a game where they played a really, really tough opponent and put them away late. Yes they did it on the road against Army and St. Mary’s in 2012, but this was different. This was a team that could match them for size and experience and physicality.

And most important, it was a team that had beaten them twice. ASU remembered that.