Wonder Boys Host Bisons in Home Finale

Arkansas Tech University will attempt to punctuate one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in the history of its football program on Saturday, Nov. 14, when it hosts Harding University in the regular season finale at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville.

The Wonder Boys (7-3) and the Bisons (7-3) will begin their 53rd meeting at 2 p.m. Party at the Plaza, the pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, will begin at noon.

Tickets ($10 for adults and $5 for students / senior citizens) will go on sale at noon at the stadium ticket office. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free of charge.

With a win over Harding, Arkansas Tech would finish the 2015 regular season with five more victories than it had during the 2014 season. That kind of one-year improvement has only been achieved eight times since Tech founded its football program in 1911.

A victory over the Bisons would also give Tech just its fifth season with eight or more wins in the last 44 years.

The catalyst for change was a new offensive philosophy. By implementing a no-huddle, hurry-up attack, the Wonder Boys have put together one of the most successful rushing offenses in their history.

Arkansas Tech has 2,869 rushing yards, ninth-most in NCAA Division II for the 2015 season. It is the third-highest single-season rushing total in program history, and it is a 309 percent increase over the 702 rushing yards the Wonder Boys had for the entire 2014 season.

“I knew we would be better and I knew the offensive line would come together, but there were still a bunch of answers we needed to find,” said Raymond Monica in reflecting upon the improvement of Tech’s offense. “We had two freshman running backs (Bryan Allen and Kristian Thompson) that came in and did a tremendous job. I think it all comes back to what (quarterback) Arsenio Favor has done. He’s a dual threat who can run the football when we need it. Arsenio has taken the offense to the next level.”

Continued improvement on the defensive side of the ball has also been part of Arkansas Tech’s success this season.

The Wonder Boys have gone from 11th in the GAC in total defense in 2012 to seventh in 2013, third in 2014 and second so far this year. Arkansas Tech allows its opponents 319.6 yards per game, and only 101.3 of those yards per game come from running the football. Tech leads the conference and ranks 13th nationally in rushing defense.

Harding will arrive in Russellville ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense (376.7 yards per game). The Bisons have won four consecutive games against the Wonder Boys dating back to 2010, and Harding has averaged 372.8 rushing yards per contest in those four victories.

Quarterback Park Parish directs the Bisons’ triple option offense. He has more rushing touchdowns this season (19) than any other quarterback in NCAA Division II.

“They do as good of a job running the triple option as anyone that I’ve faced,” said Monica. “You have to defend dive, quarterback and pitch. That’s where it starts. If you don’t take one of them, you’ve got a chance to give up a big play and it can only take one of those to lose the football game.”

Saturday will mark the final regular season game for Arkansas Tech’s senior football players. Included in their ranks is linebacker Logan Genz. Already the leading tackler in Wonder Boys’ and GAC history, Genz is now making his mark on the national record books. He has 442 career tackles, eighth-most in NCAA Division II history.

With 10 tackles on Saturday, Genz would become the first Arkansas Tech football player to ever record four seasons with 100 or more tackles.

A win against Harding would give Genz and the rest of the Wonder Boys’ seniors the possibility of playing one more game.

Arkansas Tech must defeat the Bisons and hope for a Northwestern Oklahoma State University victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State University. If both of those outcomes come to pass, the Wonder Boys would be in line for an invitation to the 2015 Live United Texarkana Bowl, which will be played on Dec. 5.

There is an additional postseason possibility for Arkansas Tech through the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl in Copperas Cove, which is also scheduled for Dec. 5.

“The whole thing I’ve been preaching is this is about the seniors this week,” said Monica. “That’s what it’s about. For those guys, this will be the last time they play on that field. It will be a special day for them because they will never do it again. You want to win that last home game.”

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live coverage of Saturday’s game.