It was about the darndest thing I’ve seen.
But now, it’s over. Thank goodness it’s over, and this is the last time we have to ponder it.
Arkansas Tech University ended a 25-game losing streak against in-state opponents on Saturday with a 24-10 victory over the University of Arkansas-Monticello.
I witnessed each of those previous 25 games against teams from the Natural State, and I can assure you that the Wonder Boys coached and played well enough to register several wins against the other five Arkansas members of the Great American Conference during the 2,227 days between Sept. 9, 2017, and Oct. 14, 2023. An almost implausible combination of great plays by the opposition, injuries at inopportune moments, a global pandemic and just plain bad luck conspired to sustain the streak.
But now, it’s over. Thank goodness it’s over.
“Now that we’ve done that, I think guys feel a lot more confident about winning and doing things as a team,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach. “It’s big to win that game. Monticello is always different for me because I worked there, so that was special to me on a personal level.”
The key to the Wonder Boys’ victory was the three stops the ATU defense made inside its own 20-yard line. UAM’s offense had scored on 17-of-18 red zone scoring opportunities entering the game for a GAC-best 94 percent conversion rate.
“The biggest thing is we just kept fighting,” said Shipp. “When our defense has been asked to make big plays in the red zone, they have really stood up at times. They did a great job on Saturday and were locked in.”
Arkansas Tech (3-4) has won three consecutive games, which is the Wonder Boys’ longest winning streak since 2019. Extending that winning streak to four games — something ATU hasn’t done since 2017 — will likely require Arkansas Tech’s best performance of the season.
Nationally 14th-ranked Ouachita Baptist University (6-1) will host the Wonder Boys for a 1 p.m. GAC contest at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 21. Live coverage will be provided by KCJC 102.3 FM, www.arkansastechsports.com and the EAB Media Group app.
The Tigers are coming off a 41-10 loss at Harding University on Saturday. The defeat ended Ouachita Baptist’s 18-game winning streak in GAC contests.
“(Ouachita) is definitely very well coached,” said Shipp. “Coach (Todd) Knight does a great job on both sides and special teams. When you watch them, there are very few holes to take advantage of. I expect a very competitive game Saturday.”
Talk to you on the radio.
Sam Strasner is director of university relations at Arkansas Tech University and the radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.