It’s not every week the punter is credited with making the play that wins a football game.
But last Saturday’s 9-7 Arkansas Tech University win at Southwestern Oklahoma State University was not a typical evening at the stadium.
ATU had just scored a touchdown to cut SWOSU’s lead to 7-6 with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The ensuing point after touchdown kick was blocked by SWOSU’s Diondre Scott, and Mason Daugherty scooped up the loose football with designs on returning it the length of the field for two points.
He out-raced 10 of the 11 Wonder Boys on the field. The only person who had a chance to tackle him was ATU punter Aaron Winn, who serves as holder on the Wonder Boys’ placement kicks. In a show of athleticism usually reserved for defensive backs and track stars, Winn chased down Daugherty and brought him to the turf at the ATU 26-yard line to prevent the 2-point return.
“Aaron made the biggest play of the night in my opinion,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach. “He came flying out of the middle of nowhere, and of course we have not heard the end of that from Aaron about how athletic he is. He made a great play and really, in my opinion, won us that game. Special teams were big for us. Even when a mistake happened, we made a play that helped us win.”
Winn, who was named Great American Conference special teams player of the week, is averaging 45.5 yards per punt through six games of his senior season. He leads the GAC in that category and would rank among the top five punters in NCAA Division II if he had enough attempts to qualify.
That tackle by the punter was not the only unusual aspect of the ATU-SWOSU game. The Wonder Boys held the Bulldogs to 67 yards of total offense and three first downs. It was the fewest yards allowed by an ATU defense in more than two decades.
“(SWOSU) did some things running outside zone that we’ve struggled with at times,” said Shipp. “For us to fit it correctly, run to the football and do our jobs playing assignment football was really good to see. I hope we can build off that for this week because UAM has a lot of talent.”
The Wonder Boys (2-4) and the UA-Monticello Boll Weevils (2-4) will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, at Simmons Bank Field at Thone Stadium in Russellville. Tickets are available at www.arkansastechsports.com/tickets.
Arkansas Tech will enter on a two-game winning streak, while UAM will look to snap a four-game losing streak. The Boll Weevils have been without starting quarterback Demilon Brown since Sept. 23 due to injury. Brown was averaging a GAC-best 317.3 yards of total offense per game before he was sidelined.
“You’ll never be able to count out Monticello,” said Shipp. “They’ll play hard. (UAM head coach) Hud (Jackson) always does a great job getting those kids motivated, and they traditionally love to play Arkansas Tech. They want to beat us, so we have to be locked in and ready to play a physical four quarters of football.”
Live coverage of the ATU-UAM game will be available on KCJC 102.3 FM, www.arkansastechsports.com and the EAB Media Group app.
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.