Tech Tidbits: Last Play Shows ATU Continues to Fight On

Peyton Henderson ATU 2023
Peyton Henderson

Put yourself in Peyton Henderson’s shoes.

Your hopes of helping Arkansas Tech University earn its first win of the 2023 football season just disappeared on a game-ending interception.

Do you: (A) hang your head and walk off the field, or (B) chase down the Henderson State University defensive back who made the interception and deny him a touchdown?

Now, Peyton Henderson plays center for ATU. He stands 6-foot-1 and 275 pounds. I don’t have record of his time in the 40-yard dash, but I do not believe it is comparable to that of Josh Brown, the HSU defensive back who picked off that pass and was racing down the sideline at Simmons Bank Field at Thone Stadium as time expired on Saturday night.

In that moment of disappointment, with the outcome already decided, Peyton Henderson chose option B. He somehow beat Brown to the spot and forced him out of bounds at the 1-yard line to preserve a final score of 27-24 in favor of the Reddies.

It didn’t change the outcome of last Saturday’s game, but it’s evidence of why it would be premature to give up on the 2023 Arkansas Tech football team.

“I was very proud of our kids for the way we played,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach. “I think it was the first time we’ve played as a true team for four quarters. There were times we could’ve quit in that third quarter, but we kept fighting. The sideline was great. Having the band in the stands behind us was a great move. It was probably the most energetic the stands have been in a while.

“The atmosphere was awesome and our kids 100 percent believed they were going to win that game,” continued Shipp. “We have to become even more detailed, but the energy, effort and fight we showed…if we do that week in and week out, we’ll have a great chance to win week in and week out.”

The Wonder Boys (0-3) will face Southern Arkansas University (2-1) for a 6 p.m. Great American Conference game at Wilkins Stadium in Magnolia on Saturday, Sept. 23. Live coverage will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM, and the EAB Media Group app.

The Muleriders are improved defensively. They allowed 437.1 yards of total offense per game in 2022. This year, that figure is down to 317.7 yards per game, which ranks fourth among the 12 members of the GAC.

SAU senior quarterback O.B. Jones ranks second in the conference in total offense (317.3 yards per game) and rushing (84.7 yards per game).

Jones is joined in the backfield by junior running back Jariq Scales, who was GAC freshman of the year in 2021 and All-GAC first team in 2022. Scales has 2,714 career rushing yards, including a career-high 245 yards against ATU in 2021 and 152 yards and three touchdowns against the Wonder Boys in 2022.

“(Jones) is a very accurate passer,” said Shipp. “He is not looking to run first. He looks to pass first, and when he decides to run, he can make you pay with his legs. We have to tackle very well again, and our containment has to be better. With Jones and Scales, they have two guys in the backfield who can hurt you. You really have to key on where is No. 1 (Jones) and where is No. 5 (Scales).”

P.S. After making that tackle on the final play of the HSU game on Saturday, Peyton Henderson walked over to check on his fellow offensive lineman Jason Richardson and make sure he was able to rise to his feet and leave the field. These guys have each other’s backs. They fight for each other. They care about each other. That’s a pretty good foundation for the success that’s on the way for the ATU football program.

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.