Learning how to win close games might prove to be Arkansas Tech University’s most important step forward during the 2023 football season.
The Wonder Boys began their season with three losses by a combined total of 12 points. It was part of an 0-4 start, but Arkansas Tech has bounced back to win four of its last five games. Two of those four wins have come by two points, including an 18-16 victory at East Central University last Saturday.
As a result, the Wonder Boys (4-5) enter the final two weeks of the season with a chance to finish above .500 for the first time since 2017.
Arkansas Tech will host Southeastern Oklahoma State University (4-5) at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Simmons Bank Field at Thone Stadium in Russellville. Tickets are available at www.arkansastechsports.com/tickets.
“We have a belief that we know how to win those games now,” said Kyle Shipp, ATU head football coach, when asked about his team’s improvement in close games. “Early in the season, we had a lot of unproven guys playing that were young and trying to figure it out. We also had new coordinators on both sides of the ball and almost an entirely new staff, so from that side of it we had to learn each other.
“It was a little bit of everything, but we fixed a few things up front and fixed a few things on defense,” continued Shipp. “We’ve continuously worked, pushed each other to get better and found ways to win games. Our staff has done a great job of that and our kids have done a great job of staying in it mentally. It would have been really easy to check out after being 0-4, but they didn’t.”
Like Arkansas Tech, Southeastern Oklahoma State turned its season around with a 3-1 record during the month of October.
The Savage Storm is led by head coach Bo Atterberry, who was head coach at Arkansas Tech from Dec. 17, 2018, until March 6, 2019, when he resigned due to health reasons. Atterberry is in the first season of his second stint at Southeastern Oklahoma State. He previously served as head coach at his alma mater from 2014-18.
“Coach Atterberry wants a run-game based team that can still throw the football,” said Shipp. “They’re trying to be 50-50 in their play calling, play good defense and play well on special teams, which is the right way to play the game. They’re just young and trying to figure out who they are on offense, but defensively they do a lot of good things and they’re well-coached.”
Live coverage of the ATU-SOSU game will be provided by KCJC 102.3 FM, www.arkansastechsports.com and the EAB Media Group app.
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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.