11th-ranked Bisons welcome 2-0 Weevils

UAM offensive linemen warm up prior to their Sept. 9 home win over Southwestern Oklahoma State University. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
UAM offensive linemen warm up prior to their Sept. 9 home win over Southwestern Oklahoma State University. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

The University of Arkansas at Monticello picked a great time to have the highest-ranked offense in Great American Conference football.

The Boll Weevils (2-0 overall and GAC) have averaged 53.5 points in lopsided wins over Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State -- this in a conference that's home to the fifth and 11th-ranked teams in the American Football Coaches Association's national Division II poll.

"I do know we're better in some positions," Weevils Coach Hud Jackson said. "We've become more competitive. We've become a little deeper in key spots. That allowed us to get more of the guys we have. It all starts up front. I still think we're pretty young up front. Two or three of those guys played a ton as freshmen, but their confidence level has grown."

UAM might have its stiffest challenge to date tonight in Searcy against No. 11 Harding University (2-0), last year's conference runner-up. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at First Security Stadium.

Harding's offense is third-best in the GAC at 51 points per game, just behind Ouachita Baptist University (52), the team ranked fifth nationally. But any win in the conference is big, regardless of the opponent's notoriety, Jackson insists.

"A win is a win," Jackson said. "It's so hard to win. For us to go on the road at Northwestern Oklahoma, a 9-hour road trip and to win, that's a big deal. Any win is a big deal."

How UAM would react after beating the Bisons might be different, Jackson added, and for good reason.

Harding's defense has been a stiff challenge, giving up 15 points per game so far. That's second-best in the conference to Ouachita Baptist. UAM's defense is fifth at 22.5.

Few of Harding's players rank in the top 10 of individual categories in the conference despite the Bisons' success. Ty Dugger has defended the second-most passes (4) only behind UAM's Greg Hooks (5), but Dugger also has an interception. Drew Hall and Nathaniel Wallace each have a sack for the Bisons to tie for ninth.

Offensively, UAM has one of the conference's players of the week in senior Demilon Brown. The Rivercrest High graduate threw for five touchdowns and 228 yards in a 58-21 win over Southwestern last Saturday in Monticello.

"The key for Demilon is just to stay healthy and stay on point," Jackson said. "He realizes he has a couple of guys he can get the ball into. If he can get the ball into players' hands, it makes his job easy."

Brown shares the award with Southern Nazarene University quarterback Gage Porter, who threw for 175 yards and ran for 216 in a win over Arkansas Tech University.

Brown can also turn to the second-, fourth- and seventh-best receivers in the conference in Isaiah Cross (100.5 yards per game), Nick Howard (88) and Jovonnie Gibson (60).

California junior Gary Ferman has emerged as the Weevils' top running back at 57.5 yards per game (eighth-best in the GAC), ahead of Harding's Braden Jay (10th at 54) and Blake Delacruz (11th at 50.5).

The mindset the Weevils are taking to beating the Bisons, Jackson said, is that of a tennis player.

"To sit here and tell you [that] you will stop it will be crazy," Jackson said of the Bisons' offense. "We're going to work it like a tennis match. We're going to try to break serve. If we can break serve, our offense can go in with a positive mindset. Harding is a good football team and has been for a long time."

Just as Coco Gauff kept the U.S. Open championship trophy home, Jackson knows well what a high-profile win would mean for his program.

"All games are important," he said. "We take no one for granted. Our guys are humble. They understand how quickly momentum can go away. We talk about it all the time. For our guys, we're going to take it as it comes. We're taking what's in front of us."

Ribbon-cutting for Performance Center

A ribbon cutting and formal dedication of the Kenneth H. Hunt Athletic Performance Center is scheduled for Sept. 30, before the Boll Weevils host East Central (Okla.) University.

The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. outside the center, located next to Steelman Fieldhouse. All former UAM student-athletes are invited to tailgate row between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The $1.3 million Performance Center is a 4,000-square foot weight room and 3,000-square foot athletic training area. No university or state funds were used in construction of the facility.

The project marks the first step in UAM's five-phase Legacy Campaign, which promotes major facility improvements.

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