Tech Faces Undefeated Harding Saturday

A football regular season defined by close games will come to an end for Arkansas Tech University on Saturday, Nov. 12, with the greatest challenge the 2016 Wonder Boys have faced.

Arkansas Tech (6-4) will visit nationally fifth-ranked Harding University (10-0) for a 2 p.m. contest at First Security Stadium in Searcy. Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and will have live coverage.

Seven of the Wonder Boys’ 10 games this season have been decided by seven points or less. After going 1-4 in its first five such contests in 2016, Arkansas Tech has bounced back to earn consecutive narrow victories over Northwestern Oklahoma State University (41-35) and Southwestern Oklahoma State University (24-20) the last two weeks.

In the process, the Wonder Boys have clinched consecutive winning football seasons for the first time since they had three in a row from 2004-06.

“You have to win the close games,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Raymond Monica. “There are so many little things that make up winning close games. The last two weekends the defense came through and stopped them in the red zone at the end, but when you look back at our losses…losing by four, by five and by seven twice…you look at the little things closer in the offseason so that hopefully those little things pay off to victories instead of coming up short.”

Harding has already clinched the 2016 GAC football championship, and with a No. 3 regional ranking it is in position to earn a berth in the NCAA Division II Playoffs.

The Bisons lead NCAA Division II in rushing offense (384.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.6 points allowed per game).

“When you run the triple option, it’s about being physical…scoop blocking, cut blocking, blocking down field,” said Monica. “And when you’re that physical on offense, you’re going to be physical on defense because you practice against each other so much. The thing about their defense is their defensive front. That’s what makes them very good.”

Arkansas Tech earned its first football victory over Harding since 2009 last season by defeating the Bisons 27-24 in Russellville. The Wonder Boys have an all-time record of 31-22 against Harding.

“We can’t turn the ball over, and we have to get turnovers,” said Monica. “That’s every week, but I think it is magnified in this game because of how well (the Bisons) run the ball, how they control the clock and how they stop people with their defense.”