The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (3-2, 3-1 Great American Conference) defense allowed only 27 yards rushing and 169 total yards in an 18-13 conference win over the University of Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils (1-4, 1-4 GAC) Saturday at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.
“Our defense played extremely well against an offense that’s been scoring a lot of points,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “When you hold somebody to that amount of yardage usually you get some turnovers, but we didn’t get any so that shows you how well they played.”
After a quick Boll Weevil three-and-out drive — the tale of the night for UAM—the Wonder Boys drove the ball 37 yards in eight plays to their opponent’s 23 yard line. Sophomore kicker Randy Velazquez lined up for the 40-yard field goal, but his attempt strayed wide left.
UAM would be forced to punt three more times and Tech twice before the first quarter ended still tied at 0-0. Tech set the tone defensively in this first quarter, allowing only 9 yards of total Boll Weevil offense, including negative 5 rushing yards.
The Boll Weevils then got their chance at a field goal attempt on their opening second quarter drive, but sophomore Jamie McGee’s 48-yard try fell short with 10:22 left in the half.
Each team then matched with a pair of punts, and Tech’s freshman athlete Michael Perry returned the UAM punt 52 yards to the Boll Weevil 3-yard line. This set up junior Kelton Smith’s 1-yard rushing touchdown two plays later. Velazquez’s extra-point attempt failed, so Tech led 6-0 with 4:49 remaining in the second quarter.
The visiting Boll Weevils struck back immediately on a 47-yard, eight-play drive capped off by a 3-yard senior Rod Smith touchdown run with 2:49 left in the half. McGee’s PAT was good, and UAM took the first half lead 7-6.
With 47 seconds left Velazquez attempted a 31-yard field goal, but as with his last try, this field goal sailed too far left as well.
In the second half Velazquez would redeem himself, again lining up from 31 yards out, and this time knocking it through the uprights to reclaim a 9-7 Tech lead with 9:41 left in the third.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Tech added another two points to its lead on a UAM 4th down punt attempt that was snapped over punter’s head and into the end zone, extending the lead to 11-7.
Tech would score once more in the third quarter, this time on a Smith 2-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left to go up 18-7 and put the exclamation point on a seven-play, 59-yard drive.
The Boll Weevils offense responded in the fourth quarter with an 8-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Hunter Leppert to his freshman receiver Jalen Tolliver. This cut the Tech lead to 18-13 with 10:01 left in the game, but UAM would prove unable to regain the lead.
Despite UAM blocking a Tech punt and gaining field position on the Wonder Boy 29-yard line, the Boll Weevils were unable to capitalize as McGee’s 29-yard field goal attempt went wide left with only three minutes left in the game.
UAM would gain possession one last time before the clock expired, but Tech’s sophomore defensive lineman Bruce Livingston sealed the win by sacking Leppert on fourth down.
Compared to the Boll Weevils’ 169 yards of offense, Tech managed to put up 274-yards total — 166-yards rushing and 108-yards passing. Smith’s 88 yards and two scores locked up his spot as Tech’s leading rusher, while junior Dennis Robertson completed nine of 21 attempts with 105 yards, no touchdowns and no picks.
Junior Logan Genz and senior Wesley McKinney led the charge defensively for the Wonder Boys with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively.
“We said it would come down to big plays,” Monica said. “We missed two field goals and an extra point, and they missed two field goals. They blocked a punt, but we also got the safety on the snap that went over his head. We ended up with more big plays than they did, but we had extremely too many penalties, and that is one thing we must correct.”
The Wonder Boys will travel to Magnolia on Saturday to face the Southern Arkansas University Muleriders (2-3, 2-3 GAC) at Wilkins Stadium.