Wonder Boys Visit NWOSU Saturday

It’s been more than two decades since Arkansas Tech University had the opportunity to make this many edits to the rushing offense portion of its football record book.

The Wonder Boys (6-2) will lean on that running game to carry them through their final and longest road trip of the 2015 regular season when they take on Northwestern Oklahoma State University (3-5) in Great American Conference action at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31, at Ranger Field in Alva, Okla.

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have the live play-by-play description.

With three regular season games remaining, Arkansas Tech has amassed 2,294 rushing yards. It is the sixth-highest single-season rushing total in Wonder Boys’ history, and it marks Arkansas Tech’s highest single-season rushing output since it ran for a school-record 3,794 yards on its way to winning the 1994 Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference championship.

This year’s running attack has helped position Arkansas Tech one game behind GAC-leading Henderson State University (7-1) entering the stretch drive of the chase for the championship.

“A five-yard gain can turn into a long run when your wide receivers are blocking,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Raymond Monica. “And then the offensive line…we’ve had some injuries there during the course of the year, but those guys keep doing a great job. It takes all 11 guys to turn those short gains into long ones. The other thing is we’ve had some great efforts from our running backs and quarterback on third and fourth down to keep the chains moving.”

Tech freshman running back Bryan Allen leads the GAC in rushing (110.8 yards per game), while sophomore running back Brayden Stringer ranks eighth in the league (67.1 rushing yards per game).

Freshman Wonder Boys’ running back Kristian Thompson (53.5 rushing yards per game) is the reigning GAC offensive player of the week after he carried for 105 yards and four touchdowns in a 57-37 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State University last Saturday.

Arkansas Tech senior quarterback Arsenio Favor has contributed 13 rushing touchdowns, ninth-most in NCAA Division II this season.

Protecting the football is a particular point of emphasis for the Arkansas Tech offense this week. Northwestern Oklahoma State has forced its opponents into 28 turnovers this season, most in the GAC and tied for most in NCAA Division II.

A good deal of that havoc has been created through pressure on the quarterback. The Rangers have recorded 18 quarterback sacks in 2015.

“The (NWOSU) defensive line is very good,” said Monica. “How we’re able to handle them up front is going to be a major factor in how we’re able to move the football.”

Northwestern Oklahoma State owns the No. 1 passing offense in the GAC. Led by junior quarterback Reid Miller, the Rangers average 319.6 passing yards per game. Ten NWOSU receivers have caught 11 or more passes this season.

“They’re doing a good job throwing and catching the football,” said Monica. “The offensive line is giving them enough time to get the football out of there. They’ve averaged 39 points per game in their last three.”

The Wonder Boys will arrive in Alva as the GAC leader in total defense (308.8 yards allowed per game). Senior linebacker Logan Genz leads Arkansas Tech and is No. 5 in the GAC in tackles (9.4 per game). Freshman defensive back Cuá Rose has intercepted five passes in 2015, second-most in the conference.

Arkansas Tech owns a 7-4 all-time record against Northwestern Oklahoma State. The Wonder Boys have won the last three meetings between the two sides, including a 33-14 victory in Russellville last season.

After its trip to Alva, Arkansas Tech will return home for its final two regular season games of 2015 — Saturday, Nov. 7, against Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Saturday, Nov. 14, against Harding University. Both games are scheduled for 2 p.m. starts. Party at the Plaza, the pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium on Centennial Plaza, will begin at noon both days.