DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern forced four turnovers and Jaylen Sims hauled in three touchdown receptions on the day as the Savage Storm stayed unbeaten at 4-0 with a 41-21 win over Arkansas-Monticello on Saturday afternoon at Paul Laird Field.
The win leaves SE tied with Arkansas Tech atop the Great American Conference standings at 4-0 with a road trip to Alva, Okla., on tap for Sept. 30 to face Northwestern Oklahoma State at 4 p.m.
"It feels good, you know," said head coach Bo Atterberry after the win. "It feels good anytime that you win. We've discussed how difficult it is to win a football game. I am proud of these guys and it's a really good team win. If you say we had some adversity early, a couple of bumps and bruises here and there, but like I told those guys, they just go out and play. That's all they have to worry about is their jobs, and that's what we did today."
"Relentless," he continued when asked about the defensive play. "Coach Burks and his staff do a great job and the offense picked up where they needed to, you know. It wasn't the best early, we got there together as a team and finished off well."
The Storm stretches its winning streak in the series with the Boll Weevils to four-straight and holds the edge in the young series 5-3.
As a team SE finished the contest with 424 total yards, rushing for 178 and passing for 248, while the defense held UAM to 332 total yards, including just 115 yards passing.
Rollin Kinsaul finished with 182 yards passing while completing 72.7 percent of his passes (16-of-22) for three touchdowns, but he was picked off for the first time this season. Austin Skinner added a 5-of-6 performance for 66 yards as well.
Sims was the top target on the day with six catches for 67 yards and three touchdowns, however he was one of 10 receivers with a catch in the game.
Rashod Polk came off the bench to lead the rushing attack and finished with 129 yards on 20 carries, giving SE a 100-yard rusher in three-straight games, while Kenneth Burks added 11 yards and a TD in light action.
The defense was paced by Seu Luafatasaga who registered nine stops on the day, including a tackle for loss, while Troy Parker added eight and Justin Young had seven.
Luke Craddock added an interception with a 20 yard return, Young picked off a pass and had a six yard return, while Hunter Treadwell added the team's third interception.
Young also forced a fumble which was recovered by Parker.
Joel Carlos went 2-for-2 on field goal tries for the second-straight week, hitting from 26 and 33 yards out, while also averaging 39.4 yards per punt while pinning UAM inside the 20 three times. He also forced touchbacks on five of his eight kickoffs.
O. J. Walker became the first player since 2009 to return two punts for touchdowns in the same season and finished with three returns for 51 yards and a score while adding a pair of kick returns for an average of 22.0 yards per return.
Neither offense was clicking early and it took a big play on defense to get the wheels moving at Luke Craddock picked off a Cole Sears pass and 20 yards to the UAM three yard line setting up a Burks one yard TD run to take a 7-0 lead at the 4:32 mark of the first quarter.
On the second play of the ensuing drive it was Justin Young who would pick off a Sears pass and set the Storm up at their own 49 and would eventually lead to a 26 yard Carlos field goal to open up a 10-0 lead with 1:35 to go in the opening quarter.
The Weevils would respond on the following drive and cash in early in the second quarter when Sears hit Austin Harris for a 1 yard TD to cut the SE lead to 10-7 with 12:00 to go before halftime.
After fruitless drives from both teams the Storm got a special teams spark from O.J. Walker who fielded a punt at his own 46 yard line and took it 54 yards to the house for his second punt return touchdown of the season to open up a 17-7 lead which would hold till the halftime break.
Walker is the first player with multiple punt return touchdowns since Jerome Hewitt returned three for scores during the 2009 season on his way to All-America recognition.
Southeastern got the ball to start the second half and marched the ball 71 yards on nine plays, using a 27 yard Kinsaul to Sky Lowe connection to convert a 3rd-and-23 before Sims hauled in his first score, a 13 yard connection from Kinsaul for a 24-7 lead.
UAM answered with a 75 yard drive on seven plays with Ralph Singleton scoring on a 23 yard run to trim the Storm advantage to 24-14 with 9:08 to go in the third.
SE responded quickly though after taking over with great field position on the ensuing drive and going 44 yards on five plays with Kinsaul finding Sims for the second time on the day, this one for six yards and a 31-14 lead with 6:46 to play in the third.
After stopping the next Boll Weevil drive the Storm put together a 6:45 drive that took 14 plays and covered 66 yards before Carlos connected on his second field goal of the game, hitting from 33 yards out with 12:38 to go in the contest.
UAM would answer with a drive that was supported by a pair of personal foul penalties by SE which helped the Weevils move the ball 76 yards on eight plays before Imani Finley scored from 10 yards out to make it 34-21 in favor of the Storm.
On the following drive the SE defense would strike again with Justin Young forcing a fumble which was recovered by Troy Parker at the Southeastern 32 yard line.
SE would march that drive 68 yards in four plays starting with a 43 yard Polk run and ending when Sims hauled in his third TD catch of the day, this one 21 yards from Kinsaul.
Hunter Treadwell would put the icing on the cake and seal the win with an interception with just over a minute to play to end UAM's final drive.