Wonder Boys Look to Bounce Back Saturday

In football, nothing eases the pain of a heartbreaking loss better than a win the next week.

The trouble for Arkansas Tech University and Southeastern Oklahoma State University is that only one of them will find that cure at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday, Oct. 24.

The Wonder Boys (5-2) and the Savage Storm (3-4) will begin their 16th all-time meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday. Party at the Plaza, the pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, has been canceled for this week due to forecasts of heavy rain.

Tickets ($10 adults, $5 students/senior citizens) will be available for purchase at the stadium beginning at noon Saturday. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will be admitted free of charge.

Arkansas Tech saw its hopes for a come-from-behind win at East Central University in Ada, Okla., last week end with a turnover deep in Tiger territory in the final 30 seconds. ECU escaped with a 20-19 win.

Forty-five minutes later and 66 miles away in Durant, Okla., Southeastern Oklahoma State took Harding University to four overtimes before the Bisons prevailed 63-60.

The Wonder Boys’ loss dropped them out of a tie for first place in the GAC standings. They are part of a four-way tie for second place behind front-running Henderson State University (6-1) with four weeks remaining in the regular season.

“There were a lot of plays that could have been made all during the course of the game,” said Tech head coach Raymond Monica while reflecting on the ECU contest. “We had some turnovers that hurt us. We’ve got to make sure we protect the ball better, which is something we’ve done a good job of this season. We need to learn from it and move on.”

Arkansas Tech freshman defensive back Cuá Rose made a team-high 11 tackles, including a quarterback sack, in the loss at East Central. He also broke up two passes. For the season, Rose is tied for second in the GAC in interceptions (4) and fourth in the league in passes defended (10).

“Cuá loves to play the game, and he has great instincts,” said Monica. “We saw it in spring practice and in preseason camp. He gets better and better every week. He’s learning the scheme, and he loves to compete every day at practice. He’s definitely going to be a great player for us. He’s doing some very special things at a very young age.”

Rose and the rest of the Wonder Boys’ secondary will be tested this week by perhaps the best wide receiver tandem in the conference.

Southeastern Oklahoma State’s Franky Okafor (6.6 receptions per game) and Kaymon Farmer (6.1 receptions per game) rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the GAC in receptions this season.

Delivering the football to them is SOSU quarterback Ryan Polite, who is second in the league in total offense (320.4 yards per game).

“They do a good job getting the football out of the quarterback’s hands quickly,” said Monica. “There are a lot of three-step drops, and they keep the ball moving down the field. They’re doing a very good job mixing up the run and the pass. When you look at them statistically, their offense has been on the field 141 more snaps than their defense and they are plus six minutes per game in time of possession. That’s very impressive.”

One way to slow the Savage Storm passing attack is to not allow it to have the football. The Wonder Boys hope to be able to do that by running the football against a Southeastern Oklahoma State defense that allows its opponents 5.1 yards per rushing attempt.

Among GAC members, only Southern Nazarene University (6.8 yards allowed per rushing attempt) has been more permissive against the run this season.

“Anytime you run the football well, it opens up the passing game and helps everything,” said Monica. “But (Southeastern) could put a lot of defenders in the box and try to hurt us that way. We need to be able to throw it, too. It’s a chess match each and every week. We always have something a little different for them.”

Arkansas Tech is 10-4-1 all-time against Southeastern Oklahoma State, including a 6-1-1 record in games played at Russellville. The Savage Storm defeated the Wonder Boys 22-5 in Durant last season. It was Southeastern’s first victory against Arkansas Tech since the formation of the GAC in 2011.

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live play-by-play coverage of the Tech-SOSU game.