Wonder Boys Return Home to Host SNU

There’s no mistaking the fact that Arkansas Tech University has dominated its all-time football series with Southern Nazarene University.

The Wonder Boys (1-2) will seek to continue that trend when they host the Crimson Storm (1-2) for a 6 p.m. Great American Conference contest at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday, Sept. 22.

It will be Family Day at ATU. Game tickets ($10 adults/$5 students and senior citizens) will be available at the stadium ticket office on game day. Those with a valid ATU identification card will be admitted free of charge.

Arkansas Tech is 5-0 all-time against Southern Nazarene. The Wonder Boys have outscored the Crimson Storm 243-35 in those meetings, including a combined margin of 98-0 during contests in 2016 and 2017.

A similar outcome in 2018 might be dependent upon Tech’s performance in one particular phase of the game.

“The thing I want to see us do a better job of is special teams,” said Raymond Monica, ATU head coach. “Southern Nazarene has very good special teams. We have to do a better job kicking the football when it comes down to field goal situations and we have to do a better job of covering punts. We can’t let them flip field position in the punting game. I just want us to be sound, play extremely hard and play disciplined.”

The great unknown for the Wonder Boys is which Southern Nazarene team they will see.

The Crimson Storm opened the season with a 35-0 loss to Southeastern Oklahoma State University and they dropped a 42-0 decision to Harding University in week three. In between, SNU quarterback Jacob Spady rushed for 129 yards to lead Southern Nazarene to a 45-20 victory over East Central University.

“(SNU) does so many things on offense,” said Monica. “You could say it is a wing T, speed sweep offense with a lot of misdirection. The quarterback is going to run the football a good bit, and I know he’s also going to try to stretch the field with some big plays throwing the football. There’s a lot of work at hand to try to stop this offense. It is unconventional, but our players have prepared well.”

Defensive performance in key moments helped the Wonder Boys earn their first win of the season last week. Tech limited Oklahoma Baptist University to one touchdown in five red zone scoring opportunities and the Wonder Boys collected their first victory in Shawnee, Okla., since 1930 by defeating the Bison 31-7.

“I thought our defense played great red zone defense,” said Monica. “We were able to either stop them or get some turnovers. In the first half, I thought our offense did a great job executing. I felt like we left some points off the scoreboard during the game, but I was very proud of the team for going on the road and winning a game. That’s never easy.”

Arkansas Tech quarterback Carter Burcham accounted for three touchdowns in the victory. He also rushed for 99 yards, the majority of which came on read option plays.

Monica said that extra element in the running game gives the opposing defense one more possibility to consider.

“Whatever you’re doing on defense, you’ve got to make sure you are accounting for the quarterback,” said Monica. “We had some good quarterback reads and Carter did a good job running the football. (Halfback) Chris Eastburn is on that edge a lot of times either checking a linebacker or going into the secondary, and he did a good job blocking.”

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live coverage of the ATU-SNU game on Saturday.