Arkansas Tech’s defense kept East Central off the scoreboard in the first half, but an unproductive offense led to the Wonder Boy (3-6, 3-5 Great American Conference) homecoming 15-0 loss against the Tigers (6-2, 6-2 GAC) Saturday at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.
“I though the defense played extremely well, especially in the red zone,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “It was one of best red zone performances from a defense I’ve seen in a long time. We just have to execute a little better.”
The Wonder Boys converted only one of 16 third downs, rushed for a team total of 47 yards on 36 attempts, and missed their one and only red zone opportunity to score.
Both teams’ opening possessions resulted in a punt. On the Tiger’s second possession’s punt from their own 8-yard line, the visiting team shot itself in the foot with a kick catching interference penalty on freshman Carson Hyles.
Because of the flag Tech started its drive on ECU’s 16-yard line, but after three failed running attempts from the Tiger’s 1-yard line, sophomore Wonder Boy Randy Velazquez lined up for the 20-yard try. His kick was low and the ball hit the snapper in the back, thus turning the ball over on downs.
Each team then traded three drives a piece accumulating in punts. On the following ECU possession, Tech forced another turnover on downs when junior quarterback Spenser Bond was unable to complete the pass to his intended target on fourth down because of the pressure applied by Wonder Boy junior Brandyn Bolling.
Tech only punted the ball in response to what should have served as a swing of momentum, and on the Wonder Boys final possession of the half Monica decided to run the clock out after a costly personal foul penalty.
On the Tiger’s second offensive play from scrimmage in the second half, senior running back JoJo Snell broke through two Wonder Boy tacklers to score on a 72-yard touchdown run with 12:24 remaining in the third quarter. ECU’s sophomore kicker David Massuere missed the extra-point attempt, leaving the score at 6-0.
Tech’s following punt attempt on the ensuing drive was blocked by junior Cole Weber because of a botched snap, allowing the Tigers to take over on the Wonder Boys 9-yard line.
On third and goal Bond’s pass was intercepted by sophomore Marlin Simmons to prevent the score. Gaining only two yards after the turnover, Tech punted the ball back to ECU.
This time it was the Tigers turn to attempt three goal line rushes, but as was the result for the Wonder Boys, ECU settled for a field goal try after being stuffed at the line.
Massuere’s 20-yard field goal was good, extending ECU’s lead to 9-0 with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
Junior quarterback Dennis Robertson threw his one interception of the game on the Wonder Boys next possession, but again the Tech defense held strong with a goal line stand on the Tiger’s next drive and forced a turnover on downs.
The Wonder Boy defense finally began to capitulate to ECU’s goal-line threats later in the fourth when Bond converted a fourth down on the ground and then scored on a quarterback sneak from one yard out.
Massuere missed another extra point, but 15 points would prove enough to best Tech.
Converting three fourth downs on its final drive still didn’t get the job done, and a Robertson incompletion on fourth and 15 turned the ball over on downs and assured the ECU win.
Robertson was 14 for 35 through the air with 114 yards and an interception, while being sacked four times. Junior Jerry Anderson led the receiving core with 22 yards on three grabs, and junior Kelton Smith was the leading rusher with 21 yards on 14 attempts.
Junior Logan Genz and Senior Wesley McKinney and both reached double digits tackling for the Wonder Boys, with 14 and 13 take downs, respectively. Genz reached his fifth consecutive game of 10 or more tackles in Tech’s second home loss of the season.
“Logan is a leader on and off field,” Monica said. “There are so many guys on that defense playing great, though. Wesley McKinney and [senior] Justin Martin have also done great job applying pressure on the quarterback.”
Tech will travel to Southeastern Oklahoma (5-4, 4-4 GAC) to play the Savage Storm on Saturday at 2 p.m.