Tech Tidbits: Physical Test Awaits ATU in Season Finale

ATU Defense vs. Harding 2021
Arkansas Tech's defense stops a Harding ball carrier during the 2021 meeting between the two programs.

It’s final exam time for the 2022 Arkansas Tech University football team.

Having already improved upon their win total from a year ago, the Wonder Boys now have the opportunity to post their first winning season since 2017. But it won’t be easy.

Arkansas Tech (5-5) will visit nationally 17th-ranked Harding University (8-2) for its final game of the season on Saturday, Nov. 12. Kickoff at First Security Stadium in Searcy is scheduled for 2 p.m. Live coverage on KCJC 102.3 FM, the KCJC Radio app and will begin at 1:30 p.m.

“Going into week 11 each year, our guys understand the physicality of this game,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach. “We have quite a few players who played in it last year, so they understand what they’re going to see in terms of how the triple option is ran and how (Harding) does things. There are some rule changes that will benefit our defense, but our guys understand it’s going to be physical and I feel like we’re for the most part prepared for it.”

The Bisons rank second in NCAA Division II in rushing offense (320.2 yards per game) with their familiar triple option attack.

It has been that ball-control style of offense that has fueled the greatest decade in Harding football history. The Bisons are 96-24 with seven NCAA Division II Playoff appearances since 2012. They enter the final week of the regular season No. 8 in the NCAA Division II Super Region 3 rankings. Harding needs to move up one spot in the regional rankings to clinch its sixth consecutive NCAA Division II Playoffs berth.

“This is a game we have to know who has the dive, the quarterback and the pitch,” said Shipp. “We have to do those three things really well, and when we get to those people we have to do a great job of tackling. If we do those three things at a high level, I think we can make this a fun, interesting game. Every possession counts. If you can get into the fourth quarter with a lead and force them to throw the football, that’s where you have the advantage.”

Perhaps Arkansas Tech’s greatest opportunity to upset Harding on Saturday would be an advantage in turnover margin. The Bisons have fumbled the football 19 times this season, but their opponents have only been able to recover 10 of them.

“If we can figure out a way to get some turnovers, it would be huge,” said Shipp. “Please say a prayer for us to get a few fumbles or an interception. It would be huge for us. We have to be Johnny on the spot, and if we get those turnovers we have to be ready to take advantage of them.”

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.