Tech, OBU Ready for First Meeting Since '07

Arkansas Tech and Ouachita Baptist will get reacquainted following a two-year break in their decades-long football series with a 6 p.m. Gulf South Conference contest at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday night.  It will be “Take a Kid to the Game Night” at Arkansas Tech. Children under the age of 14 will be admitted free with a paid adult admission. Tickets will be available at the Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field ticket office beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday. Party at the Plaza, Tech’s pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, will also begin at 4 p.m.

Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will broadcast the Tech-OBU game.

Click here to access a video stream of the game. Click here to access an audio stream of the game. Click here to follow live statistics from the game. The Wonder Boys (2-3 overall, 1-2 GSC) and the Tigers (3-2, 1-2) have competed against each other 75 times dating back to 1924.

They were separated for a brief period when OBU joined the Lone Star Conference following the dissolution of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference in 1995, but Tech and Ouachita were reunited in the GSC in 2000.

The Wonder Boys have owned the series during its GSC era with a 7-1 record against the Tigers. Tech leads the all-time series 42-26-7.

Thanks to the rotating nature of the GSC football schedule, Arkansas Tech and OBU have not crossed paths since the Wonder Boys’ 38-28 win over the Tigers in 2007.

Much has changed for the better for the Tigers since the last time Arkansas Tech saw them.

Ouachita posted back-to-back winning seasons in 2008 and 2009 after failing to finish with an overall record above .500 in its first eight years of GSC membership.

Twenty Tiger starters returned from their 6-4 team from a year ago, and OBU has been able to take advantage of its experience in 2010.

The Tigers own an eye-catching 38-23 road win over Nebraska-Omaha and they are just a handful of plays away from being undefeated. Arkansas-Monticello clipped OBU 37-31 on Sept. 18 and Valdosta State turned away a Tigers’ 2-point conversion try last Saturday to hold on for a 21-19 win.

“(OBU) is very impressive in what it has done,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Steve Mullins. “I think everybody understands how difficult that trip to Valdosta is, and I think the way they performed over there says a lot about their football team. As we went into this year OBU was one of the preseason favorites, and rightfully so.”

The Tigers have committed the fewest turnovers in the GSC (5) and they are the second-least penalized team in the conference (67.4 penalty yards per game).

Part of that efficiency on offense can be attributed to senior quarterback Eli Cranor, who has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,427 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception this season.

“Eli Cranor has done a wonderful job for them,” said Mullins. “He manages the clock and makes the right decisions with the football. He looks like the senior quarterback that he is. He knows when to get rid of it, he knows how not to take a sack and he realizes that sometimes on third down you just throw it away and punt. He doesn’t try to force things.”

Preseason All-GSC lineman Bryan Church leads a Ouachita Baptist defense that ranks fourth in the conference in total defense (311.4 yards allowed per game).

“(Ouachita) is going to be solid and force you to earn your way down the field,” said Mullins. “I think as people have seen with us so far this year, with our age and our experience, we need good things to happen. We can’t always put together a 12-play drive, but that’s what Ouachita is going to plan on making us do.”

Arkansas Tech is coming off a 28-0 loss at nationally third-ranked and undefeated North Alabama.

The shutout ended a streak of 67 consecutive games in which the Wonder Boys scored dating back to 2003, but the manner in which his team competed against a squad loaded with 58 transfers left Mullins with several positives to build on.

“I was pleased with the effort,” said Mullins. “I thought our guys responded pretty well, and our defense played outstanding. Wins and losses are the only statistic that matter in athletics, but we held UNA to a season-low in total offense (265 yards) and we gained the most yards they have allowed so far this year (264 yards).

“The biggest disappointment was our inability to score when we had the opportunity,” continued Mullins, whose team was stopped inside the UNA 25-yard line on four possessions. “We’ve got to improve, particularly our running game, inside the red zone.”

Arkansas Tech has converted on just 11-of-22 red zone scoring opportunities this season. The Wonder Boys have been stifled inside their opponents’ 20-yard line by three lost fumbles, three interceptions, three turnovers on downs and two missed field goals.

“With our inexperience on the offensive side of the ball, we are still making mistakes,” said Mullins. “That’s part of the growing process. We are making progress. It might not show by the score of this past game, but there were a lot of positives we can bring forth.”

The game against OBU is the first of two consecutive home appearances for the Wonder Boys. Tech will host Southern Arkansas for its Homecoming game at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16.