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No. 1 Coming To Town: Tech to Host UNA

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The ability to make adjustments as circumstances change is a big part of success in most any endeavor. The youthful Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys are learning that lesson applies to the game of football.  The Wonder Boys (1-4) will continue their learning process on Saturday, Oct. 8, when they host the No. 1-ranked team in NCAA Division II --- North Alabama (5-0) --- for a 6 p.m. non-conference contest at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville. Party at the Plaza, Arkansas Tech’s pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, will begin at 4 p.m. This week’s Party at the Plaza will include a meet and greet session with Arkansas Tech student-athletes. Game tickets will be available at the Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field ticket office beginning at 4 p.m. Admission will be free for those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card. Getting started has not been a problem for the Wonder Boys this season.

Arkansas Tech has scored first in all five of its 2011 games, and the Wonder Boys have led in the fourth quarter of two of their losses.

Tech led 10-0 at nationally 19th-ranked Central Missouri after one quarter last Saturday, but two lost fumbles and a blocked punt in the second quarter turned the tide in the Mules’ favor. Central Missouri went on to a 42-16 victory. Cumulatively through its first five games, Arkansas Tech has out-scored its opponents 104-100 in the first three quarters. But the Wonder Boys have only scored 18 points in the fourth quarters of games while allowing 64 points in those final 15 minutes. With 13 freshmen and sophomores on his team’s depth chart, head coach Steve Mullins sees those trends as part of the building process for his program as Arkansas Tech looks ahead to its future in the Great American Conference. “As things go through the first quarter and first half, our guys handle it fairly well,” said Mullins. “As the opponent starts to make adjustments and it’s not just like it was in practice anymore, our youth shows a little bit. But we’ve continued to improve, and I’m looking forward to playing the No. 1 team in the nation.” North Alabama notched a 23-17 win over then nationally third-ranked Abilene Christian in perhaps of the NCAA Division II game of the year so far on Sept. 17 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Since then, the Lions have experienced some struggles against their former fellow Gulf South Conference members from Arkansas. Harding University led UNA 20-14 at the end of three quarters two weeks ago, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns gave North Alabama a 28-20 victory. Last Saturday, it was Southern Arkansas that tested the Lions and their 21 transfers from NCAA Division I Bowl Championship Series conference members. The Muleriders jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter before North Alabama flipped the switch and pulled away for a 42-14 triumph.  Foremost among UNA’s list of transfers is senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was an All-Southeastern Conference first team selection at the University of Florida. Jenkins has made 33 tackles, blocked a kick and scored three touchdowns --- two on punt returns and one on a fumble return --- this season. “They are beyond impressive,” said Mullins of the Lions. “Not only did several of North Alabama’s players come from some of the top college football programs in America, in many cases they were starters at those places. (Jenkins) was the No. 1-rated cornerback for the 2012 NFL Draft coming into the season, so to have that kind of talent on the field is truly amazing.” Saturday will mark Arkansas Tech’s final farewell to the Gulf South Conference. Tech joined the GSC in 1995 and left the league earlier this year when the university moved forward to the new NCAA Division II Great American Conference. As part of its exit from the GSC, Arkansas Tech agreed to play four non-conference football games against Gulf South members during the 2011 season. That number was reduced to three games when GSC member Lambuth University closed its doors on June 30. Now, after 16 years, 28 regular season and postseason GSC championships and 801 GSC Academic Honor Roll selections, Arkansas Tech will conclude its relationship with the Gulf South Conference on Saturday night. “So many great things were achieved at Arkansas Tech during our time as a Gulf South Conference member,” said Mullins, who has served as Arkansas Tech director of athletics since 2003 and as Tech head football coach since 1997. “Our 10 sports competed at an elite level, not only in the GSC, but in NCAA Division II. We are very proud of what our coaches and student-athletes achieved in the GSC, and we will continue our commitment to academic achievement and competing at the regional and national levels as a member of the Great American Conference.” The Tech-UNA game can be heard in the Arkansas River Valley on KWKK 100.9 FM.

Click here to view video from the game.

Click here to listen to an Internet stream of the radio broadcast.

Click here to view live statistics from the game.   Arkansas Tech, which is 0-1 in GAC play this season, will resume its conference schedule on Saturday, Oct. 15, with a 2:30 p.m. game at Southern Arkansas.

Click here to learn more about Wonder Boys football.