Wonder Boys Get First Win of 2011

This time around, Arkansas Tech’s fourth-quarter lead was safe. The Wonder Boys forced five Southwest Baptist turnovers and got four touchdown passes from true freshman Preston Conder as they defeated the Bearcats 31-20 in non-conference action at Plaster Stadium in Bolivar, Mo., on Saturday night. The victory came as Arkansas Tech bounced back from a 38-31 loss to Arkansas-Monticello in the 2011 season opener one week earlier. The Boll Weevils scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun the Wonder Boys, who led 31-10 after three quarters. Arkansas Tech (1-1) built a similar advantage at Southwest Baptist. Conder threw first-half scoring strikes of 10 yards to Darrell Freeman, 33 yards to Roger Jackson and 64 yards to A.J. Whitmore. Jorge Vazquez added a 27-yard field goal and the Wonder Boys led 24-7 at halftime. The lead swelled to 31-7 when Conder and Jackson connected again — this time on a 44-yard touchdown pass — with 11:23 left in the third quarter. Unlike UAM, Southwest Baptist (1-1) dug itself too deep of a hole to climb out of. Fourteen penalties for 194 yards were among the implements that SBU used to dig its hole. But the Bearcats did find a way to make it interesting down the stretch. Dan Connors, who came on in relief of SBU starting quarterback Justin French, completed 14-of-23 passes for 166 yards in the second half. His 23-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson with 1:19 left in the third quarter and his 7-yard touchdown pass to Johnson with 44 seconds to go in the fourth quarter cut the Arkansas Tech lead to 31-20. The extra point following that last touchdown was blocked, and Joe Bryant recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Wonder Boys to seal the victory. Arkansas Tech improved to 5-0 all-time against Southwest Baptist and avoided what could have been its first 0-2 start since 1996. Conder finished 16-of-30 for 231 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Tech quarterback since Nick Graziano on Nov. 14, 2009, to throw four or more touchdowns passes in a game. Whitmore made four catches for 66 yards and Jackson had three receptions for 90 yards. Jackson caught at least one pass for a 13th consecutive game. Courtney Rockwell led the Tech defense with 10 tackles. Reggie Dunigan added six tackles, including a key sack that halted a Southwest Baptist scoring threat midway through the fourth quarter. The Wonder Boys will play their first home game of the season on Saturday, Sept. 17, when they host Delta State in non-conference action at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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