It’s been a difficult slate the last couple of weeks for the injury-plagued Southeastern football team facing two of the hottest teams in the Great American Conference.
Things definitely don’t get much easier in a 2 p.m. road tilt today at Arkansas Tech, which leads the league in multiple statistical categories and enters at 7-2 overall. The Savage Storm now stand at 6-3 in the midst of a three-game losing skid.
“They are very good on both sides of the ball and in special teams as well,” Southeastern head coach Bo Atterberry said this week. “They are up there in just about every statistic. The quarterback is capable of making plays with his feet or arm and they have some really good receivers and running back.
“Scoring offense, scoring defense, kickoff and punt returns. You name it and they are near the lead in the conference. They are just a really, really good football team, plus it’s a very tough place to play.”
Southeastern has used an opportunistic defensive unit to lead the league in turnover ratio most of the season, but Arkansas Tech has taken over the lead in that category as of this week.
The Wonder Boys have been spectacular in fumbling just three times and losing two through nine games this season. Throw in a lot of takeaways from their defense and you can understand why Tech is one of the conference front runners.
At +15 in turnover ratio, the Wonder Boys have taken over the conference lead in that category. Both squads are rated in the top five nationally in that department.
“They are up one on us in turnover ratio now,” Atterberry commented. “Their ball security this season has just been off the charts.”
Since the opening quarter against Henderson State three weeks ago, the Southeastern offense has struggled mightily with inconsistency, including last week against Harding.
With Harding holding the football for more than 70 percent of the contest with its ball control rushing attack, the Savage Storm could ill-afford wasted opportunities when they did get possession, but that’s exactly what they had.
“Every possession mattered last week and we just didn’t take advantage of ours,” the Southeastern head coach added. “We had to be extremely efficient on offense but turned the ball over too many times and didn’t make some plays that could have extended some drives. That just left our defense on the field way too long.
“We’ve struggled as of late but we have to get more production from our offense this week. At the end of the day we just have to play better, even with the injury situation the way it is.”
As if things weren’t already difficult after losing multiple starters, including their starting quarterback and running back early on, the Savage Storm could be without a few more players this week that are questionable due to injuries.
Those lineup changes on a weekly basis have obviously taken their toll.
“Obviously those on-going changes have contributed to some of the inconsistency in our play,” Atterberry stated. “It’s just the reality of the game though. That’s why it’s the ultimate team game. Everybody has to do their part in every game.
“We’ve got confidence in the guys coming in as they continue to gain experience. Hopefully we can have more consistency and have a chance to win this week. They are playing hard, but just not at the right level yet. The speed of the game is different, especially when you have to execute for 60, 70, 80 plays for the first time at this level.”
Quarterback Ty Reasnor anchors a very balanced Arkansas Tech offense with 1,969 yards passing and 17 touchdowns along with 344 yards and seven more scores on the ground. He has only been intercepted four times in 246 pass attempts. He also accounted for four touchdowns and threw for 288 yards in last week’s 38-10 win over East Central.
Running backs Bryan Allen and Braden Stringer each average more than five yards per carry and have combined for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The game will also feature two of the most dangerous return men in the Great American Conference with Stringer and Southeastern’s O.J. Walker. Both average more than 20 yards per punt return and kickoff return.