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Tech Seniors Aim for 4-0 on Homecoming

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Arkansas Tech’s senior class will try to cap an unblemished Homecoming career record when the Wonder Boys host Southern Arkansas for a Gulf South Conference football contest at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday. The Wonder Boys (2-4 overall, 1-3 GSC) and the Muleriders (0-6, 0-4) will begin their 74th all-time meeting at 6 p.m. Saturday. Pre-game ceremonies, including the crowning of the 2010 Arkansas Tech Homecoming queen, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Party at the Plaza, Arkansas Tech’s pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Click here to access a live video stream of the game. Click here to access a live audio stream of the game. Click here to access live statistics from the game. Arkansas Tech has won all three of its Homecoming games since the renovation of Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field. The Wonder Boys defeated Ouachita Baptist 38-28 in 2007, Harding 56-34 in 2008 and West Georgia 62-30 in 2009. With a victory on Saturday, Arkansas Tech’s 21 seniors can add another line to their list of accomplishments with the Wonder Boys --- undefeated on Homecoming. Tech head coach Steve Mullins pointed out there is more than that on the line this Saturday. “We need to start fighting for a winning season,” said Mullins. “That’s one of our goals we still have, and it’s one of our goals we can still achieve. I haven’t given up. I believe in our guys. Hopefully last week (against Ouachita Baptist) can be a growing experience.” OBU defeated the Wonder Boys 28-7 in Russellville last Saturday. The Wonder Boys’ defense held the 13th-ranked offense in NCAA Division II more than 100 yards below its season average in total offense, but Arkansas Tech’s offense was limited to 152 total yards. “It was a collective effort on offense,” said Mullins. “I told the team afterwards in the locker room that I felt like we had taken a step forward every week except for the week of the Ouachita game. Offensively, I thought we took a step backwards.

“We’ve got to take a step forward against SAU,” continued Mullins. “Hopefully, we’ve done some things in practice this week to create a little confidence and correct mistakes.”

Southern Arkansas’ winless record might be deceiving. The Muleriders’ six opponents this season have a combined record of 22-11. Half of Southern Arkansas’ losses are against GSC title contenders North Alabama, Valdosta State and Henderson State.

Like Arkansas Tech, the strength of the SAU football team appears to be its defense. The Muleriders rank fifth in the GSC in total defense (330.3 yards allowed per game), and they are third in the GSC against the pass (186.8 yards allowed per game).

Cedric Thornton, a 6-foot-4, 297-pound All-America defensive lineman, anchors the Southern Arkansas defense. He has 164 career tackles, including 44 tackles for a loss and 12 quarterback sacks.

Thornton captured the attention of professional scouts with a standout junior campaign in 2009 that included 80 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss and 8.5 quarterback sacks.

With both defenses playing well and both offenses trying to find themselves, special teams could play a big role in Saturday’s contest.

The Wonder Boys have been among the GSC and national leaders in net punting all season. Tech allows just 2.8 yards per punt return opportunity.

Southern Arkansas averages 15.4 yards per punt return, which is third-best in the GSC.

“I think our punt cover team versus their punt return team is going to be a key field position and special teams part of the game,” said Mullins.

Another key for Arkansas Tech will be applying pressure on SAU quarterback Austin Civita. Mulerider quarterbacks have been sacked a GSC-worst 25 times this year.

“Hopefully we can get them behind the chains, force them to throw the football and then the speed of our defense becomes a factor,” said Mullins.

Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the call of the Tech-SAU contest. There will be an audio stream and a video stream of the game on www.athletics.atu.edu.

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