The Game: For the first time since 2006 the East Central University football team will open the 2013 season at home when they host Arkansas-Monticello, Saturday, Sept. 7 at Norris Field at 6 p.m.
The Broadcast: ECU’s radio home for Tiger football in 2013 is Ada’s KXFC, 105.5, FM ‘The X-Factor’. Mike Manos returns to broadcast the games for his 17th consecutive season. Manos has worked 169 Tiger games since taking over the play-by-play duties in 1997.
The Coverage: Fans who can’t be at the game can find links to live stats, live video and the KXFC radio broadcast on ECUTigers.com. Go to the football schedule page. You can also download the KXFC radio app for your smartphone by searching ‘105.5 the X Factor.’
Pep Rally: The Tigers will kick off the 2013 season with a pep rally at Pigskins, Thursday, Sept. 5 from 6:30-8 p.m. Fans are encouraged to attend to listen to comments from head coach Tim McCarty and several of the players. There will also be a Rib Eating and Pie In the Face Contests, as well as performances from the ECU Band, ECU Cheer and ECU Pom squads.
Tailgating: This year the Tigers will have a designated tailgating location in the parking lot in front of the ECU baseball and softball fields. A reservation is required and can be made through Katie Wellington in the ECU Alumni Office (580-559-5651) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coaches Show: Every Monday night, starting Sept. 9, fans are encouraged to come to Rib Crib in Ada for the weekly Coaches Show on 105.5 the X-Factor. Each week coaches from all 13 sports will be on hand to talk about the latest news from their teams. Fans will be able to tweet in questions to @ECUTigersCoach or ask them in person. Each week will feature different coaches and food specials.
The Series: The meeting with the Boll Weevils is the sixth in the all-time series, with the first game in 1988. The Tigers now have a 3-2 record against UAM after winning the last three meetings. The first win came during the 1993 NAIA playoffs, when ECU earned a 27-0 victory. This is the third-straight meeting at Norris Field, with the Tigers claiming a 31-17 win Sept. 22, 2012.
Military Appreciation Day: Saturday’s game will be Military Appreciation Day, where all active duty and veterans will receive free admission complements of the Oklahoma National Guard and Oklahoma Heritage Bank. There will be several pre-game events around Norris Field and Oklahoma Heritage Bank will be sending 250 free t-shirts into the crowd during the game.
Scouting Arkansas-Monticello: The Boll Weevils were picked to finish ninth in the GAC after going 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the conference a year ago. UAM is led by third-year head coach Hud Jackson and is returning 15 starters and 38 letterman from the 2012 squad.
Last season the Boll Weevils averaged 23.5 points per game, while allowing 37.6. They had a better result in the air, averaging 234.4 yards per game passing to 132.3 rushing. However, they also defended against the pass better, allowing 181.7 yards passing to 240.6 rushing.
This year UAM will have a new quarterback at the helm of the offense, but they return their top receiver, Jamal Nixon. Nixon caught 59 passes for 771 yards and five TD’s in 2012. The Boll Weevils lost their top rusher, but return the second-best rusher from 2012 in Nick Williams. Williams rushed 68 times for 266 yards and six touchdowns.
The UAM defense will return a large core, including the top four producing tacklers. Anthony Hughes led the team with 60 (31-29) tackles. Deshaun Thomas and Alex Black each recorded 52 tackles, with Thomas adding two forced fumbles. Jalen Garmon tallied 48 tackles, 4.5 sacks and seven tackles-for loss.
Against the Boll Weevils: A year ago the Tigers earned a 31-17 win over UAM (Sept. 22). ECU’s offense combined for 366 yards of total offense, including 143 yards passing and 223 rushing. Spencer Bond earned his first career start and went 11-for-20 passing and rushed for 28 yards. Titus Mobley led the Tigers in rushing and receiving, running for 130 yards, scoring a touchdown and catching two passes for 20 yards. Fred Gaines came up big on defense for ECU, with two interceptions (25 yards).
ECU held Jamal Nixon to just 16 receiving yards on two carries. As a team the Boll Weevils were held to just 303 yards of total offense, including 39 rushing.
Tigers Picked Fifth in GAC Poll: This year the league’s head coaches have picked ECU to finish fifth (65 points). Henderson State was picked as the top team in the league (100 points/10 first-place votes), with Southern Arkansas (85/1), Harding (83) and Ouachita Baptist (73) rounding out the spots above the Tigers in the poll. Southeastern (49), Southwestern (47), Arkansas Tech (37), Arkansas-Monticello (31), Northwestern and Southern Nazarene (17) fill out the remainder of the poll.
New Season; New Field: Besides the new faces on the field, the team will be competing on a new surface, as the natural grass that had been at Norris Field for over 80 years was replaced with turf by the FieldTurf Company. The $880,300 facelift was completed in late April.
Gaines Garnering Pre-Season Honors: Senior Fred Gaines claimed three 2013 pre-season honors. Gaines was named to the 2013 D2Football.com Pre-Season All-America Second Team, the 2013 USA College Football Pre-Season Division II All-America First Team and the 2013 Beyond Sports Network Pre-Season All-America Second Team. He had a strong junior season for the Tigers in 2012. The safety was a 2012 Daktronics Super Region #3 Second Team Defensive selection after leading the Tigers and the Great American Conference with seven interceptions, for 80 yards. He also added 63 (46-17) tackles and three pass break-ups in 2012.
Gaines was also honored as an All-GAC First Team Selection as a safety in 2012. The Fresno, Calif., native is one of nine players from the GAC honored by Beyond Sports Network.
Black Gaining Attention: Junior Qumain Black was named to the 2013 USA College Football Pre-Season Division II All-America honorable mention team. Black was also a strong defensive presence for ECU as a sophomore in 2012. The All-GAC Honorable Mention tallied 51 total tackles (30-21), two tackles-for-loss, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. One on his forced fumbles resulted in a recovery and touchdown for 35 yards. The defensive back also added three interceptions for 29 yards and returned six kickoffs for 119 yards.
Offensive Consistency: The 2012 version of the ECU offense struggled to find consistency early in the season, but over the last three games emerged as a strong force. The good news for the Tigers is that eight of the offensive starters from a year ago are returning, including sophomore quarterback Spencer Bond.
Bond earned the starting quarterback position four games into the 2012 season and made the most of his new spot. He went 94-189-10 in passing, with eight touchdowns. Bond also added seven rushing touchdowns and rushed 86 times for 340 yards.
From the Playing Field to Coaching: The majority of the ECU coaching staff consists of familiar names for Tiger football fans. Seven of the current coaches were members of the ECU football program as collegiate athletes. Rashad Jackson, Chad Roark, Josh Phillips, Chris Espinoza, Brian Gonzalez, Dustin Lasell and Tyler McGrew have all worn an orange and black uniform before moving to a leadership role.
Seeking Winning Season Consistency: For the past two seasons the Tigers have had winning seasons, with an 8-3 mark in 2011 and a 6-5 record in 2012. It is the first time since 2000-01 that the Tigers have had back-to-back winning seasons (6-5/6-4). A winning season in 2013 would mark the first time since 1991-93 that ECU had three-straight winning seasons. In 1991 the Tigers went 5-4-1, 1992 was 6-3 and 1993, the National Championship season, had a 10-3 record.
Up Next: The Tigers will hit the road to face Southern Arkansas, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. at Wilkins Stadium in Magnolia, Ark.