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Defense Comes Up Huge in Tech Victory

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Arkansas Tech University's defense forced two fourth-quarter turnovers and made a last-minute goal line stand to give the Wonder Boys a 24-20 Great American Conference win over Southwestern Oklahoma State University at Milam Stadium in Weatherford, Okla., on Saturday afternoon.

With the victory, the Wonder Boys (6-4) clinched back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in a decade and ended a three-game losing streak against the Bulldogs.

Southwestern Oklahoma State (4-6) led 20-14 after three quarters and was driving for another score until Arkansas Tech's Cuá Rose stripped the football away from Bulldogs' running back Kwame Tate at the Wonder Boys' 15-yard line with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter.

Tech's Demetris Ford scooped up the fumble and returned it to the SWOSU 49-yard line. A penalty against the Bulldogs during the return moved the football to the 34-yard line, and seven plays later Kristian Thompson ran into the end zone from three yards out.

Eric Perez's extra point gave the Wonder Boys their first lead of the day at 21-20 with 7:46 remaining.

SWOSU put together two more scoring threats, but Tech turned away both of them. Jandt Weary intercepted a Southwestern Oklahoma State pass at the Wonder Boys' 20-yard line with 4:56 to go and returned it 42 yards to set up a 38-yard field goal by Perez. Tech led 24-20 with 1:13 left.

The Bulldogs' final threat advanced all the way to the Wonder Boys' 4-yard line, but back-to-back incomplete passes by SWOSU drained the final seven seconds off the clock and preserved Tech's victory. Wonder Boy defenders Seth Culp and Jerry Henry had one quarterback hurry apiece on the final two plays.

Thompson finished with 18 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns for Arkansas Tech. Jabyes Cross completed 7-of-10 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Wonder Boys forced four turnovers and committed just one of their own.

SWOSU's Marc Evans completed 25-of-46 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. Conner Bays made a game-high 14 tackles for the Bulldogs.

Southwestern Oklahoma State struck first with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Derrick Styles with 8:10 left in the first quarter. Tyler Peterson added the extra point and the Bulldogs led 7-0.

Arkansas Tech evened the score at 7-7 on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Cross to Justin Bailey and a Perez extra point with 10:19 remaining in the second quarter.

SWOSU went on an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive during its final possession of the first half. Evans' second touchdown pass of the day --- a 23-yard toss to JR Omigie with 54 seconds to go in the second quarter --- and Peterson's second extra point gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead at halftime.

SWOSU maintained the lead until the series of big fourth-quarter plays by Arkansas Tech's defense propelled the Wonder Boys to their first win over the Bulldogs since Oct. 13, 2012.

The Wonder Boys will conclude their 2016 regular season by visiting nationally-ranked Harding University for a 2 p.m. GAC contest at First Security Stadium in Searcy on Saturday, Nov. 12. Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and will have live coverage.