Wonder Boys Tangle With Tigers Saturday

Arkansas Tech University will face the task of containing not one, but two mid-season candidates for Great American Conference offensive player of the year on Saturday, Oct. 8, when it visits Ouachita Baptist University.

Kickoff for the Wonder Boys (2-3) and the Tigers (3-2) is set for 1 p.m. at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia.

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will provide live play-by-play coverage.

OBU junior quarterback Austin Warford has completed 68 percent of his passes in 2016 and he has the highest pass efficiency rating in the GAC, but that is only half of his story. He is ranked fifth in the conference in rushing with a 97.6 yards per game average.

One of the few GAC players averaging more rushing yards per game is his teammate, sophomore running back Kris Oliver. The Arkadelphia product is averaging 111.6 rushing yards per game, tied for second-most in the league.

“With (Warford) running the football, they are getting that extra blocker with the running backs on the outside running game,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Raymond Monica. “Their quarterback is like having another running back on the field, but it’s not just about his running ability. He is doing a good job throwing the ball downfield. He’s definitely a dual threat. (Oliver) is very shifty, and he can go the distance at any time. The key to their offense is their offensive line. They are very solid.”

Arkansas Tech will counter Warford and Oliver with a defense that ranks No. 2 in the GAC against the run. The Wonder Boys allow 109.2 rushing yards per game. Last Saturday, Tech limited then nationally seventh-ranked Henderson State University to 43 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

Despite that defensive effort, 97 rushing yards by sophomore Bryan Allen and a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Jabyes Cross to sophomore wide receiver J.V. Davis with 1:23 remaining, the Wonder Boys finished on the losing end of a 27-20 decision against the Reddies.

“The first half, defensively, we didn’t do quite as good with the passing game as we could have,” said Monica. “We could have reacted a little better on the bubble screens. The second half we did that. Offensively, when we get down there in the red zone and on the goal line, we have to find some kind way to get it in the end zone.”

Arkansas Tech has converted on 17-of-23 red zone scoring opportunities in 2016, but only 11 of those trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line have resulted in touchdowns.

“The positive is (Eric Perez) is doing a good job getting it through the uprights,” said Monica. “He was 2-for-2 over the weekend, but we have to score touchdowns instead of field goals.”