Thursday, October 2, 2003
Arkansas Tech seeks to improve to 3-0 in Gulf South play
LITTLE ROCK -- If the bookmakers in Las Vegas cared about
such things, somebody could have struck big money betting that
Arkansas Tech would be the last state school undefeated in Gulf
South Conference play.
Southern Arkansas, Central Arkansas or Harding would have been
good bets to be 2-0 right now, but they are a combined 1-5.
The Wonder Boys (3-1, 2-0 Gulf South) were 4-7 last year and
their offense ranks 11th in the league at 255.5 yards per game. But
Arkansas Tech opened Gulf South play with a 34-23 win over Ouachita
Baptist and it held on for a 10-9 victory over Harding last week.
"We just have a bunch of guys playing hard," Arkansas Tech
coach Steve Mullins said. "You look at our statistics stacked up
against everybody else and you would think we would be 0-4 instead
of 3-1. But the kids fight hard and somehow found a way to win."
This week, Arkansas Tech seeks a 3-0 start at Arkadelphia
against a Henderson State team that lost an 18-point lead and
fumbled inside the West Georgia 5 in the final minute of a 38-35
Also on Saturday, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-3, 1-1 SWAC) starts the
meat of its Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule on the road
at No. 22 Southern. The Jaguars (4-0, 2-0) jumped into the poll
this week after beating Alabama State 35-10 last week.
Alabama State beat the Golden Lions 24-22 two weeks ago.
In other Gulf South action, Ouachita Baptist (2-1, 1-1) travels
to No. 2 Valdosta State (4-0, 2-0); Harding (1-2, 0-2) seeks to get
its offense on track at West Alabama (2-2, 1-1); North Alabama
(4-0, 2-0) faces a Southern Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) team still smarting
from a close call against Valdosta; and Arkansas-Monticello (1-3,
0-2) seeks to continue Central Arkansas' (2-2, 0-2) misery.
Mullins has led the Wonder Boys to a 3-1 start with an offense
that hasn't been very productive, but his defense has been stout.
The Wonder Boys have forced a conference-high 14 turnovers and the
team ranks third giving up 329 yards per game.
Last week, linebacker Cedric Flemons intercepted a pass with 7
seconds remaining to preserve the win over Harding. Defensive end
and punter Tommy Edwards set a school record in the game with his
22nd career sack.
Edwards also kept the Bisons offense pinned in their own
territory with a 47.8-yard average on eight punts, five of which
landed inside the Harding 20.
That defense will be tested this week by a Henderson State
offense that ranks No. 1 among Division II schools with 337.8
rushing yards per game.
"Their offensive is unique and by far the best one we've faced
this year," Mullins said. "Anytime you lead the nation in rushing
you've got to be doing something right. It just worries me to death
because no one has stopped them and offensively, we can't get in a
scoring contest with them."
OBU put the shackles on UCA's offense last week and this week
the Tigers will look to do the same to Valdosta. The Bears didn't
throw for a touchdown against OBU in a 43-28 loss. The Tigers broke
the game open by scoring the final 16 points of the game.
Valdosta returned a Southern Arkansas fumble 97 yards with 4:51
remaining and then tacked on two touchdowns after that to turn a
close game into a blowout. The Blazers, who average almost 400
yards per game, can score points in a hurry.
Harding entered the season with one of the deepest set of
skilled players in the conference, but the Bisons haven't had much
success the past two weeks. The offense has been held to 12 points
in home losses to North Alabama and Arkansas Tech.