Grieving coach leads Arkansas State at No. 3 Georgia

Field Level Media

September 10, 2019 at 6:06 pm.

On paper, Saturday’s game between No. 3 Georgia (2-0) and visiting Arkansas State (1-1) looks like just another nondescript non-conference contest where the outcome seems predetermined.

But there’s more to this story.

On Aug. 19, Red Wolves coach Blake Anderson lost his wife, Wendy, to cancer, a tragedy that not only devastated the coach and their three children, but the entire ASU squad, many of whom saw the late Mrs. Anderson as a second mom.

Shortly before her death, Anderson took a leave of absence, only to make a surprise return before last Saturday’s 43-17 win at UNLV.

“I did not make the final decision until 4 in the morning (last Saturday),” Anderson said. “But I’m glad I went. My biggest concern was being a distraction because I did not want to take away from the preparation and make it about me. I just wanted them to know that I was there for them. I struggled with the decision, but I’m glad I did and they responded perfectly.”

On Saturday in Athens, Anderson will lead his squad into Sanford Stadium against a Bulldogs team that looks to be one of the country’s best.

Georgia has asked all fans attending the game to wear the color pink in Wendy Anderson’s memory.

“I can’t even begin to fathom or understand what he’s gone through. When I first heard the news, I was crushed for him, his family, his kids. I can never imagine what he’s having to go through because that’s really tough. Obviously, he loves his family because he made the choice to step away and was able to go be with them and now, he’s come back,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I’ve met Blake a couple times and I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a person and a coach.”

As for the game, while Arkansas State looks to pull what would obviously qualify as a huge upset, Smart just wants his team to stay focused.

Next week, the Bulldogs host Notre Dame in one of the most highly anticipated contests in recent school history. For now, however, it’s all about Arkansas State.

“We don’t look past today, that’s the thing. We’re focused on today and getting better at us,” Smart said. “The tape speaks for itself this week. (Arkansas State) is a really good football team. … They have a really good quarterback, good wideouts, they have explosive players on defense, and all-conference players all over the place in a conference (Sun Belt) that I’ve got a lot of respect for.”

Anderson said his team intends to be as ready as it can.

“We’re going in with a plan to win the game,” he said. “That’s the goal and that’s the plan. We know what kind of challenge that is and how well we have to play to get that done. Our focus all week will be on getting better, play our best ball and capitalize on any mistakes they possibly make.”