Building resiliency and toughness within the culture of the Arkansas Tech University football program was job No. 1 for Kyle Shipp when he became head coach at his alma mater in 2019.
After the Wonder Boys rallied from deficits of 14-0, 21-10 and 35-31 to defeat Oklahoma Baptist University 38-35 last Saturday, there is significant evidence that Arkansas Tech has turned a corner in developing the perseverance required for success.
“That’s something we’ve been working on for the last two years,” said Shipp. “It doesn’t happen overnight. You have to go through hardship to get where you want to be. We’re still a long way away, but we’re getting closer. There were so many times on Saturday our guys could have shut it down, but they didn’t.”
It was the second consecutive victory for Arkansas Tech (2-4). The Wonder Boys’ improvement is perhaps best reflected in their passing statistics. After averaging 106 passing yards per game through the first three weeks of the season, Arkansas Tech has averaged 279.7 passing yards per game during its three most recent games.
Senior quarterback Jack Lindsey completed 31-of-43 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma Baptist. Freshman wide receivers Joyrion Chase and Mason Ross both accumulated more than 100 receiving yards in the victory. Senior Trey Smith caught a career-high 10 passes, including his first touchdown reception as a Wonder Boy. It came during his 37th game at Arkansas Tech. That’s resiliency.
Knocking off an Oklahoma Baptist program that was 7-4 in 2019 and picked to finish top four in the Great American Conference in 2021 made last Saturday’s triumph the Wonder Boys’ most impressive victory since 2017.
The year 2017 --- Sept. 9, 2017, against Henderson State University, to be exact --- was also the last time Arkansas Tech defeated an in-state opponent in a football game. Since that 26-3 win over the Reddies, the Wonder Boys have lost 15 consecutive games to opponents from the Natural State.
Arkansas Tech can end that streak on Saturday, Oct. 16, when it faces Southern Arkansas University (2-4) in the Murphy USA Classic at Memorial Stadium in El Dorado. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Pre-game coverage on KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will begin at 1:30 p.m.
“Right now, there are some really good football teams in the State of Arkansas,” said Shipp. “This is one of the best eras of NCAA Division II football there has ever been in our state. Henderson State, Harding and Ouachita are all very good. UA-Monticello is 4-2. Southern Arkansas is just like us. There is no bad Arkansas team. It’s really important for us to get a win and end that streak because it helps in recruiting and for me, as an Arkansas person, I want to get back where we want to be. That starts with beating Arkansas teams.”
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.