Arkansas Tech University caged one group of Tigers last Saturday night.
Now it’s time to find out if the Wonder Boys are ready to run with the kings of the Great American Conference jungle.
ATU (1-1) will host nationally 10th-ranked Ouachita Baptist University (2-0) for a 6 p.m. Family Day contest at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field on Saturday. Party at the Plaza tailgating will begin at 3 p.m. on the Crabaugh Hall lawn. Game tickets are available for purchase at www.arkansastechsports.com/tickets.
Big plays on the defensive side of the ball propelled the Wonder Boys to a 35-13 win over the East Central University Tigers in week two. Javon Love intercepted a pass and returned it 75 yards. Jordan Furtch intercepted a pass and returned it 50 yards. On both occasions, the ATU offense converted the turnover into a touchdown.
It’s exactly what ATU head coach Kyle Shipp and his defensive coordinator, Josh Lawson, envisioned with they transitioned to a 3-3-5 defensive scheme in preparation for the 2022 season. More speed. More big plays.
“It gives the opposing quarterback more things to think about,” said Shipp. “Quarterbacks are trained to see certain things, but when you throw a fifth defensive back in there it breaks a lot of what they’ve been trained to do their entire life. I think it paid off Saturday night, and hopefully it continues to do that.”
The Ouachita Tigers have been the class of the Great American Conference since the league began competition in 2011. OBU has won five GAC football titles (2011, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019) and the Tigers are working on a streak of 13 consecutive winning seasons. They’ve won their last four meetings with Arkansas Tech.
This season, Ouachita leads NCAA Division II in rushing (354.5 yards per game).
“It’s just what they do,” said Shipp. “Their offensive line is very physical, their tight ends are good and they utilize their running backs in different wildcat sets. Their offense is built around run first. They give you different formations every week and they have a ton of different packages they can go into. From a defensive standpoint, you have to know what personnel are in the game.”
Concentration has been a point of emphasis for the Wonder Boys this week.
“Our word of the week has been focus,” said Shipp. “Focusing on the small things and cleaning up some of the minute details. How are we using our hands? What’s our pad level? Making sure we are making the right reads on the offensive side of the ball. Eyes on the back end defensively. Tackling. We had to focus on all those things this week because Ouachita is a really good football program. Coach (Todd) Knight and his staff do a fantastic job. They don’t beat themselves very often. They prey on your mistakes. That’s what great football teams do. We have to do our best to limit those opportunities for them. I truly believe that if we play the way we are capable of playing, this is going to be a pretty exciting night.”
Live coverage of the ATU-OBU game on KCJC 102.3 FM, the KCJC Radio app and www.arkansastechsports.com will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
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.