Football Finale: Wonder Boys to Visit SWOSU

Arkansas Tech will look to identify leaders for the 2012 football season when it closes out the 2011 campaign on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Wonder Boys (2-7 overall, 1-3 Great American Conference) will face the Southwestern Oklahoma State Bulldogs (4-5, 2-4) for a 2 p.m. GAC contest at Fast Lane Field in Weatherford, Okla. Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley.

Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast. “We’ll be looking at the attitude and the effort of some of our younger players,” said Steve Mullins, who has won a school-record 91 games as the Arkansas Tech head football coach. “The seniors know this is their last game, and you would expect them to be focused and give everything they’ve got. When you’ve had a hard season like we’ve had, it’s easy to just show up and play without giving the effort that you need to. This game will be a good evaluation of the guys who are coming back next year.

“As the coaching staff grades the game film each week, it has been pleasing to see how our freshmen are getting better and better,” continued Mullins. “We’ll watch for that continued improvement this Saturday and see the guys who assume roles of leadership.”

Southwestern Oklahoma State has lost four consecutive games, but the Bulldogs still have a meaningful goal to play for.

SWOSU has two games remaining — home against Arkansas Tech this week and at Arkansas-Monticello on Nov. 12. Victories in both of those games would give the Bulldogs their first winning season since 2007.

Sophomore quarterback Dustin Stenta is one of the primary reasons that Southwestern Oklahoma State has a chance to achieve that goal. He leads the GAC in passing at 296.5 yards per game.

“As you look at how things have evolved over the last month for Southwestern, they have come to rely on their quarterback more and more,” said Mullins. “As we looked at the film of their most recent game, they ran a lot of no-back offense. They had not shown that all year, but they put a lot on the quarterback’s shoulders with some draw plays and quarterback powers. He did a great job of scrambling.”

Arkansas Tech, which dropped a 31-16 decision to East Central last Saturday, has averaged 134.7 rushing yards over its last three games.

Southwestern Oklahoma State leads the GAC in pass defense (189.3 yards allowed per game), but the Bulldogs rank next-to-last in the league in rush defense (185.0 yards allowed per game).

“Our biggest concern and our biggest challenge is that the two interior players on the Southwestern Oklahoma State defensive line have great speed,” said Mullins. “The players at those two positions move constantly, so just because they line up in one place doesn’t mean they’re going to be there when the ball is snapped. Our offensive linemen have to keep their eyes in the right place in order for us to have success running the football.” Saturday will mark the end of one of the most unusual seasons in Arkansas Tech football history. All of the Wonder Boys’ home games were against out-of-state opponents for just the second season in school history (the other was in 1957), and they played three games against Gulf South Conference teams as part of the university’s exit agreement from that conference. Arkansas Tech faced four opponents this season — Delta State, West Alabama, Central Missouri and North Alabama — that have been ranked in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II top 25 at one time or another. Two of those opponents — DSU and UNA — have been ranked No. 1 this year. Next season will mark the beginning of the new normal for Arkansas Tech football. The Wonder Boys will play a full Great American Conference schedule in 2012 and seek to continue the Arkansas Tech football tradition that has yielded 18 conference championships and 526 all-time wins over the past 97 seasons.

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