The Game: The East Central University football team will play the first of two-straight road games to finish the 2013 season when they travel to Harding, Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. at First Security Stadium.
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 176 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.’
Coaches Show: Every Monday night 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.
Scouting Harding: The Bisons are 6-2 overall and in the GAC after earning a 41-20 win at Southeastern Oklahoma State last weekend.
Harding is averaging 44.2 points per game, while only allowing 22.5. They also have a strong lead in offensive yards at 4,052 to 2,817. The Bisons are more of a rushing team with 3,056 of their total yards coming on the rush and 996 passing. They are also better a rush defense, allowing just 690 yards to 2,127 in the air.
Harding has two quarterbacks that have seen action in at least six games this season, with Keenan Kellett earning the start in the most recent games. Kellett is 28-of-61 for 568 yards and three TD’s. His top receiver is Donatella Luckett , with 405 yards on 20 catches and two touchdowns.
There are three key rushers for the Bisons, with Romo Westbrook standing out. Westbrook has 840 yards this season on 114 attempts and nine touchdowns. Ahmad Scott has 327 yards and D’Nico Jackson-Best has 304 yards.
The Bisons defense is led by Daylan Skidmore with 65 (36-29) tackles and 2.5 tackles-for-loss. Daniel Riley is also a key defensive contributor with 27 (18-9) total tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss (38 yards) and 6.5 sacks (34 yards).
Against the Bisons: After heading into the locker room with a 14-7 lead at halftime ECU dropped a 14-31 decision to an undefeated Harding on the road last season.
Both the offensive and defense scored in the first half of play, with a fumble returned for a touchdown and an offensive touchdown put the Tigers up 14-7, but the Bisons came out of the locker room recharged and scored 24 unanswered points in the second half to earn the win.
The Series: The Bisons currently own a 8-3 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1993. Harding also owns a 6-0 mark when playing in Searcy.
Looking For More Record Book Changes: Two members of the Tigers football team are looking to set new ECU season records and the team is hoping it defense will hold strong for a second.
Senior Caleb Holley has 781 receiving yards this season, with the single-season record stand at 930 (Chris Barnes-2001). Sophomore Spencer Bond is also aiming for a new passing TD record. Bond has 19 so far in 2013, with the record of 25 set by Tyler Vanderzee in 2010.
If the defense can continue to hold strong in passing defense they could set a new record for passing yards allowed in a season. The current record is 1,628 yards and so far this season ECU has allowed just 1,043 and are averaging 283.4 per game allowed.
King of Defense: The awards keep rolling in for ECU senior Alex King after he had one of the best games of his career at Southwestern Oklahoma State (Oct. 26). After earning Great American Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors he has now been named the D2Football.com Defensive Player of the Week.
King registered a career game in the Tigers’ 24-21 win against SWOSU. He set a GAC single-game record with 5.5 tackles-for-loss. He made more tackles (14) in the game than he had a season ago (13). He registered a pair of sacks and he forced a fourth-quarter fumble with SWOSU driving at the five-yard line to save a touchdown. His 5.5 tackles for loss ranks him tied for 4th in the NCAA for TFL in a single game.
Night for the Record Books: ECU senior Caleb Holley was named the GAC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Northwestern Oklahoma State (Oct. 19).
Holley set an ECU record for receiving yards in a single game with 224. He had 212 at the half and had already broken the school record, set in 1969, of 183 by Dave Davis. He also tied the single game record for receiving touchdowns with three. In the first half, he helped the Tigers to 552 total yards, 418 receiving. He caught a 54-yard touchdown to start the second quarter.
Key Offensive Performance: The Tigers had their best offensive performance of the season against Northwestern (Oct. 19), with 599 yards of total offense, 405 passing and 194 rushing. It marked the fourth-straight week that ECU was above 400 yards of total offense, dating back to the Ouachita Baptist game (423). The Tigers added 543 yards against Arkansas Tech, 418 yards against Henderson State, and 491 against Southern Nazarene.
Getting in the Red Zone: The Tigers have been very strong in the red zone this season, scoring 27 of the 32 times they have made it past the 20-yard line. The 84% mark ranked them No. 35 in the nation in the category. ECU has scored 20 TDs (63%) and seven field goals when making it into the red zone and also held their opponents to a 27-of-36 (75%) mark, with 22 touchdowns and five field goals.
Long Arm of Gaines: Gaines has had his hands in the faces and paths of the opponent’s offensives this season. The Fresno, Calif., native had three pass break ups and eight total tackles, including one for loss, in the game against Ouachita Baptist. He now has season totals to 40.0 tackles, six passes defended, four pass break ups and two interceptions.
All-Around Bond: Sophomore Spencer Bond took control of both the running and passing aspects of the game against Ouachita Baptist, leading the Tigers in rushing and passing. Bond had a passing TD and a rushing TD in the game and ran for a team-high 150 yards. He then added 406 yards of total offense at No. 8 Henderson State and a career-best 450 yards against Arkansas Tech. For the season he has a 134.56 passing efficiency, 2,375 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 2,718 yards of total offense.
Penalty Woes: Penalties have been a key point for ECU this season, with three losses coming when they recorded more penalties than their opponents. This was evident in the loss to Ouachita Baptist when the Tigers committed 13 penalties for 124 yards. As a team, ECU is averaging 85.2 yards in penalties per game in 2013.
Special Teams Power: In the Tigers game at Southern Arkansas special teams led the way. ECU scored a safety and a touchdown on a kickoff return. Senior LaQuan Harper tallied a total of 111 yards for the night on kickoff returns, including a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Fellow senior Ruben Tiller added two more points for special teams, with a safety on a point after attempt return in the fourth quarter.
Defense Producing Offense: Junior Qumain Black had an outstanding first game of the season for the Tigers and was named the GAC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Black intercepted a pair of passes against Arkansas-Monticello. He returned the second interception 80 yards for the final touchdown of the game. In the first quarter, he returned his first interception 58 yards to the five-yard line that led to the second touchdown of the game. He also added a 40-yard kick return to finish with 178 all-purpose yards.
Todd’s Turn: Last season Justin Todd was behind Titus Mobley on the depth chart. This year he may be behind JoJo Snell, but he has already made a spot for himself on the field. In the first game of the year, Todd doubled the number of touchdowns he had scored in his career and recorded more yards than he had in 2012 combined. Todd had eight rushes for 97 yards (85 yards in 2012) and tallied two touchdowns (1 TD in 2011) all in the first half.
The JoJo Express: Junior transfer JoJo Snell had an impressive first game for the Tigers and accomplished it all in the first half of action. Snell exploded out of the pack for 101 rushing yards and 11 receiving yards. Snell averaged 6.3 yards per rush and had long runs of 45 yards, while scoring a TD.
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.
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.
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.
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 wrap up the 2013 season on the road at Southeastern Oklahoma State, Saturday, Nov. 16 at 2 p.m.