Defense again kept Arkansas Tech (3-5, 3-4 Great American Conference) in its second straight matchup with an undefeated top-25 opponent until the last moments, but Ouachita Baptist (7-0, 7-0 GAC) proved too tough as the No. 18 Tigers defeated the Wonder Boys 14-9 Saturday at Cliff Harris Stadium.
“Our defense played extremely well, forcing stops on fourth down, and getting turnovers on an interception and red zone fumbles,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “Offensively, we moved the ball but had some mistakes and penalties that pushed us back and kept us out of the end zone.”
In his fourth consecutive week with double-digit tackles, junior linebacker Logan Genz racked up 10 tackles and an interception, one of Tech’s three forced turnovers that kept the game nip and tuck throughout.
After converting a crucial fourth and nine, the Tigers scored on their opening possession, driving 63 yards in 15 plays and scoring on a 3-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Kiehl Frazier to senior wide out Jalen Jones to make it 7-0 with 5:23 left in the first quarter.
Tech’s ensuing possession was cut short when junior Dennis Robertson’s pass was picked off by senior Jeremy Small and returned 40 yards to Tech’s 44-yard line.
OBU was unable to produce off the turnover, and after gaining back possession, Tech’s sophomore Randy Velazquez’s 36-yard attempt was blocked by junior Barkley Legens, ending a 13-play, 57-yard Wonder Boy drive.
Velazquez was given another attempt after Genz’s interception in the closing moments of the first half. This time Velazquez knocked a career-long, 47-yard field goal through the uprights to get on the board 7-3.
The Tigers struck first in the second half, scoring on the opening eight-play, 73-yard drive when Frazier linked up with fellow senior Drew White for the 23-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-3 with 11:22 left in the third quarter.
The Wonder Boys defense would then save two scores by forcing two OBU fumbles within the red zone, one of which was recovered by sophomore Lovis Hall and the other by senior Wesley McKinney, but Tech’s offense was only able to punt the ball away in response to the turnovers.
With less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Tech scored its first touchdown of the afternoon on Robertson’s 25-yard pass to junior Jermaine Merdock that capped a seven-play, 64-yard drive and brought the score to 14-9.
Tech was penalized for a false start on the two-point conversion that would have brought the Wonder Boys within a field goal, and Robertson’s pass fell incomplete on the try.
Twice more the Wonder Boys had an opportunity to score late, but on Tech’s final possession Robertson was sacked, and his fumbled was recovered by Legens of OBU to seal a Tiger win.
Tech’s defense, holding opponents to 18.1 points per game in 2014, limited an OBU team that averages 38.3 points to its lowest score this season.
But the offense of Tech played relatively impressive as well despite the lack of points, totaling 305 yards—Tech’s fourth 300-yard-plus performance of the season — compared to the Tiger’s 300 yards.
Robertson completed 16 of his 34 passes for 234 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Merdock led Tech’s receivers with six grabs, 103 yards and a score.
Junior Kelton Smith had 51 yards rushing—eight yards less than the Wonder Boys previous five week average of 59.2 yards a game.
The Wonder Boys will face off at home against the East Central Tigers (5-2, 5-2 GAC) on Saturday for a homecoming matchup at 3 p.m.
“Homecoming is a special time for these seniors and also alumni that get to come back,” Monica said. “We’re going to practice every day and get better for this week’s game.”