GAC Week Three Preview

September 14th, 2023 9:00am

GAC Week Three Preview

Two weeks into the 2023 season and the Great American Conference continues to go according to plan. Week three doesn’t offer many chances at chaos, but we’ll take a deep dive into the matchups all the same.

Here are the week two GAC Players of the Week.


Offensive Player of the Week- Demilon Brown, QB, Arkansas-Monticello

-15-of-28, 228 yards, five touchdowns, 

-Six carries, 47 yards rushing

Offensive Player of the Week- Gage Porter, QB, Southern Nazarene

-11-of-16, 175 yards, one touchdown

-30 carries, 216 yards, four touchdowns

Defensive Player of the Week- Josiah Johnson, safety, Ouachita Baptist

-One sack

-One interception

Special Teams Player of the Week- Andrew Schreiner, Southern Arkansas

-Six punts, 38.2 average

-Onside kick in fourth quarter allowed SAU to tie and force overtime at East Central


Game of the Week: Southern Arkansas (2-0) at No. 5 Ouachita Baptist (2-0)

One of two battles of undefeated teams in the conference this week, the Muleriders will attempt to upset the Tigers and prove the hype in Magnolia is real. The start to the season hasn’t been easy for SAU, though. A slow win over Southeastern two weeks ago was followed by a dramatic overtime victory at East Central last Thursday, a game in which the Muleriders trailed, 17-0, at halftime. OB Jones and Jariq Scales have carried the load so far, but they’ll have to raise their game to get a win in this one, and get others to help them along the way. Defensively, the Muleriders will have to be able to contain a balanced Ouachita attack. Through two games, the Tigers are averaging 232 yards on the ground and 266 yards through the air. 

After a slow start in Weatherford in the season opener, the Tigers have been dominant, including an absolute smothering of Northwestern OSU last week. The Tigers defense, a very experienced bunch, will be challenged at a completely different level by the Muleriders offense. Shutting down Jones on the ground will be key, as the threat of Jones running the football does a lot to open up options down the field for SAU. As mentioned above, the Tigers have shown they’re so much more than a ground and pound team, probably in part because of the new offensive line members. Quarterback Riley Harms has been excellent through two games, leading the GAC in passing efficiency. 

I think the Muleriders will be able to move the ball a bit and put up some points on the Tigers, but I don’t think SAU will be able to stop the Ouachita offense.

Ouachita Baptist 41, Southern Arkansas 24


East Central (0-2) at Southwestern OSU (0-2)

Offense will be hard to come by in this one if the first two weeks of the season are any indication. The Tigers have certainly shown to be the more competent of these two, with transfer quarterback Traair Edwards providing a solid replacement for the departed Kenny Hrncir. However, the Tigers put up just 82 yards of offense after halftime last week while blowing a 17-0 lead in the loss to SAU. The Bulldogs have just been downright bad on offense through two games, averaging just 223 yards per game. Perhaps some personnel changes could kick-start SWOSU this week at home, but that’s simply just a guess.

Defensively, the Tigers continue to be solid, thanks to some veteran playmakers on that side. They should be able to hold the SWOSU offense down, particularly if nothing changes for the Bulldogs. SWOSU, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery defensively. After a respectable showing against Ouachita Baptist in the season-opener, the Bulldogs were blown off the field in Monticello last week. So the outcome on Saturday could depend on which version of the SWOSU defense shows up.

At the end of the day, East Central, despite its clear flaws, appears to be the more well-rounded team in this matchup. 

East Central 27, Southwestern OSU 10


Southern Nazarene (1-1) at Northwestern OSU (0-2)

The Crimson Storm righted the ship on offense against Arkansas Tech last week, eclipsing 500 yards of offense and over 300 yards on the ground. However, the defense was equally impressive. Before a final Tech touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the game, the Crimson Storm had held the Wonder Boys to just 15 yards of offense in the second half. Tech had just 276 yards of offense for the game, the first time the Crimson Storm had held an Arkansas school under 300 yards since 2014. The improvement is clear, and Saturday against a struggling and rebuilding Northwestern OSU team should give SNU another opportunity to build confidence on that side of the ball.

We knew from the beginning the rebuild in Alva would take some time. But putting up just 76 yards of offense against Ouachita Baptist last week really brought that point home. Darian Gill is a nice running back, and there are solid options at receiver as well. But the lack of strong quarterback play is making things tough to start the year. Defensively, the Rangers have not been good against the run, giving up a league worst 5.8 yards per carry through two games. I’d expect SNU’s 5.7 yards per carry average to get a big bump this week.

The Gage Porter era at SNU really began when he led SNU led to a double overtime victory in Alva back in 2018. Fitting he’ll be able to get another big win to bookend his career. 

Southern Nazarene 45, Northwestern OSU 20


Henderson State (2-0) at Arkansas Tech (0-2)

The Wonder Boys are on the struggle bus right now. Through two games, it appears the coaching staff overhaul has not had its desired effect. Now the Wonder Boys are entering a tough two-game stretch against the Reddies and Southern Arkansas that could quickly send them into an 0-4 hole. The offense hasn’t been great and the defense hasn’t been able to get the stops necessary to produce a win, either. Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots that could burgeon into really good things for the Wonder Boys. Quarterback Taye Gatewood has been solid so far, but he needs help, particularly from the running game. But he’ll face a really stiff challenge this week against the Reddies.

Henderson State has done nothing to dissuade us from thinking of them as an equal to Ouachita Baptist and Harding in the early season. The running game has not been quite as explosive as expected, particularly with a strong offensive line and a 1,000-yard back in the backfield. I’m sure that’s something that will come along, as the conference as a whole seems to have crunched down in the run defense category. Andrew Edwards continues to be great and seems to have found some good options at receiver to replace all the production that was lost from a season ago. If that stays consistent and the running game picks up, watch out. 

Hard to see the Wonder Boys rising up and springing the upset in this one. Henderson State is just too much and gets the road win. 

Henderson State 37, Arkansas Tech 13


Arkansas-Monticello (2-0) at No. 11 Harding (2-0)

This should be a very revealing game on Saturday, particularly for the Weevils. Monticello is averaging over 50 points per game through two games and quarterback Demilon Brown has already accounted for 10 touchdowns through two games. However, the question remains if that’s a product of the competition (NWOSU and SWOSU) or if it’s for real. We’ll find out Saturday against the Bisons, who have thus far, forced six turnovers against Southern Nazarene and held Oklahoma Baptist to just nine yards rushing. Defensively, the Weevils have started strong as well, but again, there’s the whole competition thing. But through two games, you definitely have to be aware of UAM.

Harding continues to just smother the competition and has a lot of weapons in the backfield on offense at their disposal. Frankly, how Harding balances everything offensively will be something to watch. The culture is great in Searcy, but there are a lot of really good options at slot back and only so many carries to go around. Will be interesting to see how those are divvied out over the course of the season. Saturday, the Bisons will need to employ a similar game plan against Brown and UAM that they did against SNU and Gage Porter. Brown likes to throw a lot more than Porter, though, so a secondary that has improved some from last year will be tested with the speed of the UAM receivers. 

Both teams have been impressive to start the season, but I do think some of the Weevils’ success can be attributed to the opposition. Harding takes this one at home.

Harding 35, Arkansas-Monticello 14


Southeastern OSU (0-2) at Oklahoma Baptist (1-1)

Honestly not quite sure to make of this one. Through two games, Southeastern OSU has probably had the toughest schedule in the league and has shown some encouraging signs. The Savage Storm held a 28-14 lead halfway through the third quarter against Henderson State before the Reddies scored the final 24 points to win that one. SEOSU also hung tough against Southern Arkansas in the season opener. The big issue for Southeastern thus far has been the run game. SEOSU is averaging a league-low 68.5 yards per game on the ground thus far. That must improve if they’re going to give quarterback Bryce Fields any chance at being successful consistently. Defensively, the Savage Storm have been alright, giving up 5.4 yards per play which is sixth in the league. 

Oklahoma Baptist got a nice win over Arkansas Tech in the season opener but then were stymied against Harding last week. Like the Savage Storm, the Bison have struggled to run the ball, gaining just nine yards on 15 carries against Harding. The defense has been solid so far, so they could be able to find success against SEOSU, particularly if they’re able to pressure Fields the way they were able to get after Tech two weeks ago. That will be paramount to coming out of Saturday with a win. 

This should be a tight one. I think the Savage Storm are more explosive in the pass game, but the Bison have a slight edge defensively. Might just need to flip a coin here.

Southeastern OSU 27, Oklahoma Baptist 24