Wonder Boys Aim For 3-0 Start Saturday

Week three of the 2017 football season brings a new challenge for Arkansas Tech University.

Undefeated and nationally-ranked for the first time in almost two years, the Wonder Boys (2-0) will change roles from the hunters to the hunted when they host Oklahoma Baptist University (0-2) in Great American Conference action at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Tickets ($10 adults/$5 students and senior citizens) will be available at the stadium gate on game day. Those with a valid ATU identification card will be admitted free of charge. Party at the Plaza will begin outside the stadium at 3 p.m.

Arkansas Tech is No. 19 in this week’s American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II top 25 poll, its highest ranking since it was No. 18 in the final poll of the 2009 season.

The Wonder Boys earned that No. 19 ranking with back-to-back wins over then 22nd-ranked Southern Arkansas University on Aug. 31 and then 23rd-ranked Henderson State University last Saturday.

Tech, which was picked to finish sixth in the preseason GAC poll, owns wins over two of the top three teams from that poll. The Wonder Boys enter the third week of the season tied with Ouachita Baptist University and Southeastern Oklahoma State University for first place in the GAC standings.

ATU head coach Raymond Monica pointed to a fast start on offense and four turnovers forced by the Wonder Boys’ defense as keys in Tech’s 26-3 win at Henderson State.

“That first drive everything seemed to be clicking, and we got some third down conversions that allowed us to go in and score,” said Monica. “That was a very big positive. Coach (Brent) Dearmon and the offensive staff did a great job of planning all week. Some of the takeaways were on first down, so we were able to get the ball right back to the offense. It was just a great night.”

Three of the four takeaways by the ATU defense came in interceptions by Cua’ Rose, who earned GAC defensive player of the week honors after tying the GAC and school records for most interceptions in a game.

“Cua’ has been a great player since he got on the field here,” said Monica. “You could see it in camp his freshman year. He was moving at a different speed, and he has great instincts. He can break on the football. To me, at that rover position, he’s the total player you want. He made some very good interceptions (at HSU). It wasn’t just ones that were thrown straight to him. He made very good plays on the football.”

Oklahoma Baptist has opened the season with losses to East Central University and Southeastern Oklahoma State. The Bison rank third in the GAC in total offense (486.5 yards per game), but they rank last in the conference in total defense (522.5 yards allowed per game).
One year ago, Oklahoma Baptist took advantage of two fourth-quarter Arkansas Tech turnovers in the red zone and defeated the Wonder Boys 19-15 in Shawnee, Okla.

“We always have to hang on to the football,” said Monica. “We can always learn from mistakes that happened last year, but this is a different team with different chemistry. I like what I see at this point in the season.”

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live coverage of Saturday’s game.

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