Arkansas Tech (3-8, 3-7 Great American Conference) was unable to quell the No. 16 Harding Bisons (9-1, 9-1 GAC) triple option attack, resulting in a 41-7 season-ending loss for the Wonder Boys on Saturday in Searcy.
“Defensively this year we did so many good things, and we also had big special teams plays with kickoff and punt returns,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “But offensively we obviously didn’t have year we wanted to have.”
Although the Wonder Boy defense gave up 402 yards, 311 of which came on the Bisons’ 52 rushing attempts, junior linebacker Logan Genz managed 14 tackles, giving him 352 career tackles to tie the all-time Arkansas Tech tackles record set by Mike Gurule (1990-93.) Senior safety Shai Kobayashi earned 12 tackles and Wesley McKinney nine.
“Logan works extremely hard in everything he does,” Monica said. “He prepares himself all year long for football season, running and working out. He’s the captain of this football team.”
Tech did force three Bisons turnovers but could not capitalize, lacking offensive execution all afternoon. Continuing a season-long pattern of barren running performances, the Wonder Boys finished with 11 yards on 27 rushes and 187 yards total offensively.
Later-down woes have been habitual for Tech all year, and against the Bisons the Wonder Boys converted only three of 18 third downs and one of five fourth down tries.
After one Harding and two Tech punts, the Bisons scored the first points on a 24-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Ahmad Scott that would cap a nine-play, 61-yard drive.
Scott again broke loose on Harding’s next drive, scoring this time on a 55-yard dash to the end zone to make it 14-0 a minute into the second quarter.
Sophomore back Eric Kelly rushed in from 10 yards out for another score on the Bisons’ next possession, and the rest of the half would be scoreless despite Tech driving it to Harding’s 8-yard line (resulting in a blocked field goal) and recovering a fumble (ending in a Wonder Boy turnover on downs).
The Bisons’ first drives of the second half went fumble-punt-fumble-punt. But Tech could not take advantage of its stout defense, and a fumble from senior punt returner X-Zavier Akinpelu set up a 50-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kennan Kellett to freshman running back Zach Shelley for the third quarter’s only score.
A 61-yard punt return set up the next Harding score, coming on a Kellett-Kelly 21-yard touchdown hookup with 8:17 left in the game.
The Bisons returned to their rushing attack for their final score, as sophomore quarterback Park Parish ran it in for a 34-yard touchdown.
The lone Wonder Boy score, encouraging though futile, would come with 25 seconds remaining on the season’s clock. Finally putting together a nine-play, 65-yard drive, Tech’s sophomore quarterback Justin Owens hit senior wide out DeRon Brown for the 34-yard touchdown.
Junior Dennis Robertson, Tech’s starting quarterback through 10 games, did not see any action in Saturday’s matchup because of a shoulder injury sustained in last week’s loss to Southeastern Oklahoma.
Owens was the most effective of the three Wonder Boy quarterbacks used, completing 13 of 33 passing attempts for 130 yards and a score.
“We’re now losing a lot of good seniors — guys who’ve played a lot of football for us and will be missed,” Monica said. “Now we just need to recruit the best players we can and work every day to become a better football team.”