October 24th, 2022 7:00am
Another week down in the GAC, as we head down the home stretch of the season. Turns out, there's a lot of similar teams in the GAC across various tiers. A whopping five teams are stuck in the squishy middle of the league standings with 3-5 records, while three teams are all at 6-2, vying for a possible share of a conference title and a playoff spot.
Here are the results from week eight:
Southern Nazarene 27, Northwestern OSU 21
Southeastern OSU 62, Oklahoma Baptist 14
Harding 56, Arkansas-Monticello 43
Ouachita Baptist 63, Southern Arkansas 31
East Central 42, Southwestern OSU 28
Henderson State 35, Arkansas Tech 19
Tigers Hold Serve
East Central and Ouachita Baptist have a big showdown on Thursday night, but had to get through two tough opponents on Saturday to make sure that game still held meaning. Both teams did, with the Ouachtia offense putting up 63 points against Southern Arkansas and East Central holding Southwestern to just 104 yards through the air. ECU has now won six straight games since starting the season 0-2. We'll have plenty more on this matchup in our preview column on Wednesday.
Shootouts in Southern Arkansas
Both games in the southern portion of the Natural State nearly eclipsed 100 total points, with Ouachita beating Southern Arkansas 63-31 and Harding edging Arkansas-Monticello, 56-43. The Tigers were able to fend off the Muleriders, who trailed just 42-31 heading into the fourth quarter. Ouachita put up three touchdowns in the period to make the final margin a bit wider than the rhythm of the game would indicate. Meanwhile, over in Monticello, Harding bounced back from the loss to Henderson State last week with a surpring quick-strike attack. Five Bisons touchdown drives took less than three minutes against the Weevils defense. The Weevils found a lot of success offensively, putting up 563 yards. However, three turnovers spelled doom for UAM, including a 97-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Harding's Clark Griffin.
OBU's Massive Slide
Last year, Oklahoma Baptist was a team that averaged 37 points and 450 yards per game. This year, those numbers are 23 and 337. Everyone knew there would be considerable drop off with the loss of Preston Haire, Tyler Stuever and Josh Cornell, but I don't think anyone thought OBU would find themselves 1-7 through eight games. Defensively, the drop has been big as well, going from 30 points and 390 yards per game allowed last year to 39 points and 450 yards allowed this year. The biggest difference year-over-year has been the run defense. Last year, the Bison were second in the conference, allowing just 134 yards per game on the ground. This year, they're one of the worst in the country, giving up 260 yards per game. Saturday, the Bison lost at Southeastern 62-14, a game in which the Savage Storm scored the first 55 points over the course of the first 46 minutes of the game. OBU still faces Southern Arkansas, Henderson State and Southern Nazarene, all teams who can thoroughly exploit that porous run defense. Oklahoma Baptist has certainly dealt with injuries a lot this season, but regardless, this dramatic slide is something no one saw coming.
Reddies Run Defense Remains Stout
Much focus has been on the quarterback position for Henderson State this season, but the Reddies run defense has been simply outstanding this season, leading the conference by giving up just 121 yards per game on the ground this year. Saturday, the Reddies held Arkansas Tech to just 81 yards rushing on 28 attempts. The Wonder Boys came into the game averaging nearly 300 yards rushing per game over their last three games. And this comes a week after the Reddies took down Harding in large part to holding the Bisons to just 236 yards rushing. It won't get easier for Henderson State, as they'll take on SNU's rushing attack, averaging 301 yards per game for the season, on Saturday.
-TJ Cole is simply amazing. Six rushing touchdowns on Saturday, 230 yards on 25 carries. Most impressive (as always) was the zero negative rushing yards. It's one thing to pile up a bunch of yards and touchdowns, but to do so without ever losing yards is quite the feat. Cole is tied for the nation's lead in rushing touchdowns with 18 and is second in the country in rushing yards with 1,293.
-East Central did not record a turnover against Southwestern OSU, the first time all season the Tigers did not record at least one takeaway. ECU continues to lead the nation in turnover margin with 21 takeaways and just five turnovers.
-Harding is giving up 21.5 points per game and 317 yards per game on defense this year. Those are the highest season average numbers for the Bisons' defense since 2017, when Harding gave up 20.3 points per game and 307 yards per game.