A total of seven forced turnovers defensively and a strong showing from freshman Michael Perry in the return game led the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (2-1) to a 34-14 win over Great American Conference (GAC) opponent Southern Nazarene (0-3) at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field Saturday.
“I thought the defense came out and played well,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “We were able to get turnovers and score, and Michael Perry had a big kickoff return for us.”
After senior Shai Kobayashi picked off sophomore quarterback James Mauro’s third down pass on the Crimson Storm’s opening drive, the Wonder Boys took advantage of prime field position, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run by freshman Justyn Oliphant.
Tech then forced four punts in four Southern Nazarene possessions, but with 9:22 left in the half the Crimson Storm tied the ball game when Mauro hit his sophomore wide out Austin Williams on a 28-yard sideline pattern for the score.
The Wonder Boys struck back before the half came to a close when junior quarterback Dennis Robertson linked up with sophomore receiver Tony Adams on a 21-yard wheel route to go up 14-7 with 4:55 left in the second quarter.
Perry wasted no time putting points on the board in the second half, as he returned the half’s opening kickoff 94 yards for the touchdown, giving the Wonder Boys a 21-7 lead.
Sophomore kicker Randy Velazquez attempted to tack on another three points to the Wonder Boy lead, but his 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Then, after a pair of turnovers from both squads, junior Logan Genz picked off a Crimson Storm pass and returned it 46 yards for the defensive score. The extra-point hold was bobbled and unsuccessful, leaving the score at 27-7 with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter.
With only 27 seconds left in the third, Tech added more cushion to the lead when senior Devin Patterson caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Robertson to make it 34-7.
Southern Nazarene would score once more on sophomore Brian Yenor’s 3-yard rushing touchdown with 3:11 left in the game, but that’s as close as the Storm would come to catching the Wonder Boys.
“We have to get better in a lot of different areas,” Monica said. “We need to look at third down and see how we were; keeping the chains moving offensively is the biggest thing for us.”
Robertson completed 17 of 29 passes with 169 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Oliphant led the way on the ground for the Wonder Boys with 43 yards and a score. Tech managed to accrue 255 yards of total offense compared to Southern Nazarene’s 144.
Tech will travel to Lake Charles, La., Saturday to take on a McNeese State team (1-1) whose only defeat came from Division I Nebraska in a 31-24 week-one loss.
“We’ll be facing a very good football team this upcoming weekend.”