The Game: The East Central University football team will get its first test against a nationally ranked opponent when they travel to Arkadelphia, Ark., to battle with No. 8 Henderson State, Saturday, Sept. 28. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Carpenter Haygood 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 172 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.’
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 done through Katie Wellington in the ECU Alumni Office (580-559-5651) or email at email@example.com.
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.
The Series: The all-time series with the Reddies currently stands as 13-10-1 in favor of HSU. The Reddies have not been defeated by the Tigers since 1986 (W, 10-0), with the series during the span going 7-0-1 in favor of HSU.
Scouting Henderson State: The Reddies have a 16-game winning streak in progress dating back to 2011 and have earned a No. 8 ranking by the AFCA and the No. 10 spot in the D2Football.com polls this week. HSU has started the season 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the GAC after defeating Southeastern 44-35 last week.
The Reddies have a strong offense in place, averaging an NCAA-best 681 yards of total offense a game and scoring an average of 67 points per outing. The passing game, led by quarterback Kevin Rodgers is the main focus for HSU. The Reddies average 466.3 yards in the air each game, with Rodgers accounting for 410.7 of those yards and having a 75-120-2 passing mark, with 12 TDs. The pass has allowed the Reddies to average a scoring drive time of just 1:48 this season.
Rodgers top receivers are Darius Davis and Robert Jordan. Davis has caught 20 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns, while Jordan has 19 catches for 312 yards and three TDs. When the ball is left on the ground, Ryan McDonald leads the team with 53 attempts, 334 yards and four TDs.
The Reddies defense is strong as well, ranking No. 20 in the nation for total defensive yards allowed (289.3). Keaton Stigger leads the charge with 25 total tackles.
Against the Reddies: In the last meeting with HSU, the Tigers fell 14-49 on the road to a ranked Reddies team.
Spencer Bond went 13-of-41, with one touchdown. The Madill, Okla., native also added 55 yards rushing on 13 carries. Lindsey Anderson connected with Bond on four passes, for 86 yards, and garnered a touchdown. Junior Fred Gaines added one interception.
Both team garnered less than 100 yards rushing, with the key difference in the game coming in passing. The Reddies threw for 378 total yards, while the Tigers had 183 yards. HSU was 29-of-42 passing and had an average of nine yards per pass, while ECU was 13-of-41 and averaged just 4.5 yards per pass.
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. That brought his season totals to 17 tackles, five passes defended, four pass break ups and one interception.
Getting in the Red Zone: The Tigers have been very strong in the red zone this season, scoring all seven times they have made it past the 20-yard line. The 100% mark ranked then No. 1 in the nation in the category. ECU has scored six TDs (86%) and a field goal when making it into the red zone and also held their opponents to a 12-of-15 (80%) mark, with nine touchdowns and three field goals.
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. For the season he has a 99.5 passing efficiency, 532 passing yards, three touchdowns and 682 yards of total offense.
Penalty Woes: Penalties have been a key point for ECU so far this season, with both 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 100.7 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.
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 return home for a two-game home stand that includes the 2013 Homecoming game. ECU will battle Southern Nazarene for Homecoming, Saturday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. at Norris Field. Prior to the start of the game the athletic department will honor the 1993 NAIA National Championship team.