Could history repeat itself on Saturday?
The date was Sept. 28, 1996. The University of North Alabama, three-time defending NCAA Division II national champion, had won 28 consecutive home games. The purple-clad, nationally fourth-ranked Lions' opponent that day was an 0-4 Arkansas Tech University team.
Final score: Arkansas Tech 38, North Alabama 35. It remains among the most improbable wins in Wonder Boys' history.
Twenty-five years later, three-time defending Great American Conference champion Ouachita Baptist University owns a 29-game GAC winning streak. The purple-clad, nationally ninth-ranked Tigers have not lost a league game since dropping a 31-28 decision at Harding University on Oct. 7, 2017.
Ouachita's opponent this Saturday, just as was the case for UNA in 1996, is a winless Arkansas Tech team. The Wonder Boys fell to 0-2 on Saturday with a 13-10 loss at East Central University.
Matching the upset pulled off by the 1996 Wonder Boys will require the 2021 Wonder Boys to slow down one of the top rushing offenses in the nation. Ouachita averages 301 rushing yards per game, fifth-most in NCAA Division II.
“(OBU) does a fantastic job up front,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head coach. “That staff has been together on the offensive side of the ball for a long time. They know exactly what they want to do. They’ve built a culture. They’re going to line up and run it. When they hand the ball off to their running backs, those guys are downhill, physical runners who are trying to run you over.”
Shipp is heartened by the ability to fight through adversity his team has demonstrated thus far.
“Our mentality is better than it was in 2019,” said Shipp. “Our guys are upset with themselves because they know we could be 2-0 or 1-1, but as far as coming back to work and going after it every day, they’ve done that. The attitudes have been great. We’ve got a really good group of kids. We’re just trying to figure out how we fit together on both sides of the ball. Once we get that, we’ll start seeing success. It could happen this Saturday night. We just have to meet their level of physicality and guys have to make plays. If those things happen, it could be a special, special night for us.”
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live coverage of the ATU-OBU game from Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. The pre-game show begins at 5:30 p.m. and kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.