In 1980, Steve Mullins departed from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a bachelor’s degree in his hand and a dream to coach football in his mind. Three decades later, he is the winningest head football coach in Arkansas Tech University history and a three-time Gulf South Conference coach of the year. Mullins will return to his alma mater on Saturday night, but it won’t be for a 30-year class reunion. Instead, he will lead his Wonder Boys (1-2 overall, 0-1 GSC) against a UAM team brimming with confidence following a huge road win. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Convoy Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium in Monticello. Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast.
“It’s a lot of different mixed feelings,” said Mullins of returning to Monticello. “There’s a lot of difference between now and 14 years ago when I went back for the first time (as Tech head coach). I have a lot of pride in my alma mater and a lot of great memories, and even though we’ve been back to Monticello numerous times now, it’s still fun to go back and see all the improvements that (Chancellor) Dr. (Jack) Lassiter has made to their campus.
“I like for (UAM) to win anytime except when they play Tech,” continued Mullins. “Then, I really like for them to lose. I don’t know if that’s going to happen on Saturday night or not, but we’ll go out and give it our best shot.”
The Boll Weevils (2-1, 1-0) went to Arkadelphia and beat previously undefeated Ouachita Baptist 37-31 last Saturday.
UAM senior quarterback Scott Buisson and junior tailback Nakita Myles led a balanced Weevil attack. Buisson accounted for 205 yards and three touchdowns, while Myles rushed 14 times for 131 yards and two scores.
The biggest difference in the game was turnovers. Ouachita Baptist committed two turnovers, and UAM converted those mistakes into 14 points. The Boll Weevils, meanwhile, did not commit a single turnover.
That performance was consistent with Arkansas-Monticello’s early-season trend. The Boll Weevils have only committed three turnovers through their first three games, the fewest in the GSC.
The story could not be any more different for Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys lead all of NCAA Division II in turnovers (17). They gave the ball away six times against Henderson State last Saturday, including three turnovers inside the HSU 20-yard line.
The Reddies pulled away in the fourth quarter to defeat Tech 45-21 and end the Wonder Boys’ eight-game home winning streak.
Positive outcomes were few and far between for Arkansas Tech, but one bright spot was the potential shown by redshirt freshman quarterback Rico Keller in his first action as a Wonder Boy.
Keller, who has been recovering from a preseason injury and missed Tech’s first two games of the 2010 season, completed 23-of-41 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns against Henderson State.
“As you look at our team right now, our mental condition is extremely important,” said Mullins. “We’re still searching for our offensive identity. Hopefully, with the change at quarterback and getting settled at a few more positions our team can develop confidence throughout the game.
“As we go into the (UAM) game, I’d like to tell you we are a confident team, but I would be lying,” continued Mullins. “We’ve got to get a little bit back. Henderson played extremely well, we did not play very well and the results speak for themselves. We just need to play hard, believe in ourselves and come together as a team.”
Saturday’s game at UAM is the first of two consecutive road contests for Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys will travel to Florence, Ala., to take on nationally-ranked North Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Tech’s next home game is set for Saturday, Oct. 9, against Ouachita Baptist.]]>