East Central’s Tigers ran into an earth-moving machine last Saturday against the Harding University Bison in Harding, Arkansas.

Harding’s forte is running the football, and run they did with over 550 yards against the Tigers.

The result was a 56-20 Bison victory.

It was the fourth straight game Harding scored over 45 points and had over 400 yards rushing. They are now running for a conference-leading 384.8 per game. This is over 150 yards better than second-place Oklahoma Baptist at 239.4. ECU is fourth at 202.3 per game.

Practicing against their offensive team must make their run defense better. They are the only team giving up less than 100 yards per game on the ground (91.1 per game).

The Tigers did not help that average, as they gained over 80 yards more than any other GAC team has gained against them this year with 189. This was only about 12 yards below the Tigers’ season average.

Harding has long been dominant running the ball. Since the founding of the Great American Conference in 2012, the Bison have led the league in rushing. Each year, they have topped the conference in total rushing yards, rushing yards per game, rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns. They hold seven of the top 10 marks for rushing yards per carry in a season.

As hard as those numbers are to believe, how about this number? In their nine games this year, the Bison have thrown a total of 21 passes. Yet, they lead the league in passing efficiency, as they are averaging one completion and 2.33 attempts per game. Harding has completed nine of the 21 passes with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

In the team’s season opener, a 16-14 loss to Ouachita Baptist, HU opened by forcing Ouachita to punt and were pinned on their own 15-yard line. Their first offensive play of the 2019 season was an 85-yard pass for a touchdown. They threw a season-high five passes that game, and all were caught – two by Harding players and three by Ouachita players. Those have been their only three interceptions all year.

Harding has attempted at least one pass in every game this year, and in three games, the only pass they threw was incomplete. So, three teams – East Central, Arkansas Monticello and Southern Arkansas – can say they had a game this year in which they gave up zero completions and zero passing yards. Against Southern Nazarene, the Bison were 1-of-1. Against Southwestern, they were 1-of-3. In both of those games, their only completions were for touchdowns that covered 42 and 28 yards.

On defense, they lead the league in interceptions with 12. They have returned three of those for touchdowns that covered 77, 60 and (against ECU) 47 yards.

The Tigers are also having a great year running the football. They are fourth in the GAC at 202.3 yards per game with a total of 1,821 yards for the year. The Tigers have scored 24 rushing touchdowns. With three more, they will tie the 1979 team for 10th on the all-time list.

The 1980 Tiger team is ninth with 28, and the 1987 Tigers are eighth at 30. In 1984, the Tigers had 44 and in 1983, a total of 43. Yes, those were the Calip years, as Brad Calip set records at seven touchdowns in a game in 1982, 19 in a season in 1984 and 49 in his 1981-84 career.

Another Tiger legend, Tyler Jack, holds the single-game record of 315 yards set in the Tigers’ national championship-winning game in 1993. The 1993 team is third all-time with 41 rushing touchdowns in that season.

It will be interesting to see where this Tiger team makes its mark in the ECU record books at the end of the year. They are already in the top 10 in some categories and well on their way in others.

Around the GAC last week, ECU (1-8) fell to Harding (9-0) 56-20, and Southeastern (1-8) lost to Arkansas Tech (3-6) 38-20. East Central closes out the year against Arkansas Tech and Southeastern. After losing their first six games to open the season, Tech has now won three in a row. Southeastern has lost seven in a row since defeating Northwestern on Sept. 14. Southeastern gets their turn at trying to slow down Harding this Saturday and Arkansas Tech the next Saturday.

Ouachita (9-0), led by Co-Offensive Player of the Week Brockton Brown, remained undefeated on the year as they downed Southern Arkansas (7-2) 38-21. Brown ran for 149 yards and scored three times. He ranks second in DII with 17 rushing touchdowns this year.

Defensive player of the week CJ Jones of Henderson State came up big in the Reddies’ (8-1) win over Arkansas-Monticello (27-20). On the day, he registered eight tackles and an interception to stop an Arkansas-Monticello in the red zone late in the third quarter.

Co-Offensive Player of the Week Tyler Stuever of Oklahoma Baptist ran for 226 yards and scored three times to help OBU (5-4) defeat Northwestern (2-7) by a score of 34-25. In the same game, Northwestern’s Aharon Barnes averaged 39.7 yards on three kick returns, and he also blocked a field goal. His longest kick return was 62 yards. He was the GAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Two weeks are left in the regular season for Great American Conference teams. Ouachita, Harding and Henderson State all have a great chance of moving into the 28-team DII playoffs. Seven teams from each of four “Super Regions” will be in the playoffs. In each region, the top-seeded teams get a bye during the first round. In Super Region 3, Ouachita is currently third, Harding fourth and Henderson State ninth. Ouachita is one of 12 undefeated DII teams in the country and one of three in Super Region 3.

If you are wondering about other NCAA Division II schools in Oklahoma, there are two. Both the University of Central Oklahoma and Northeastern are members of the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). The conference has 12 football-playing schools spread across the states of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The conference currently has teams ranked second, seventh, eighth and tenth in Super Region 3.

UCO currently stands at a respectable 4-5. They could finish at 6-5. They get Northeastern (0-9) at home this week. They finish at Emporia State (2-7), whose wins are over Northeastern and Lincoln MO (1-8).

Northeastern has had a season they will hope to forget about quickly. They are 0-9 and have been outscored 544-86 this year. They are averaging 9.6 points a game, compared to their opponents’ 60.5. They are giving up an average of right at 580 yards per game. They have lost 86-7 and 79-0 in their last two games. Earlier, they lost 70-7 and 70-13. They have given up over 50 points in seven of their nine games. Their closest game was a 27-9 loss to 1-8 Lincoln (M.). 

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