The East Central University football team will open the home portion of the 2014 season, Saturday, Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. when the Tigers face Southern Arkansas in Great American Conference action. The game is Take A Kid to the Game Day, with Mercy Hospital Ada passing out free t-shirts in both kids and adult sizes. Halftime will also feature a performance from future cheerleaders that participated in a cheer clinic.
The Broadcast: ECU's radio home for Tiger football is Ada's KXFC, 105.5, FM 'The X-Factor'. Mike Manos returns to broadcast the games for his 18th consecutive season. Manos has worked 179 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 the University Center on ECU's campus 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 email them to email@example.com.
Koi Ishto Stadium: At the 2014 ECU Tiger Kickoff Dinner and Auction, ECU President John Hargrave announced that the stadium at Norris Field would be renamed Koi Ishto Stadium in honor of the relationship between ECU and the Chickasaw Nation. Koi Ishto means big cat in the Chickasaw language. A formal dedication will be held, Saturday, Nov. 15 on Chickasaw Appreciation Day when the Tigers battle with Southeastern Oklahoma State.
Scouting Southern Arkansas: Like the Tigers first game of the season, the Muleriders came out on top due to a last second play, defeating Southeastern 30-29 at home. SAU got the ball back with 1:31 left and Si Blackshire and Aaron Johnson connected for a 24-yard TD as time ran out for the win.
The Muleriders earned their advantage in the air, garnering 206 passing yards to just 84 by Southeastern. Blackshire finished the day 13-of-27, with 206 yards and two passing TDs. He also added two rushing TDs. Johnson caught both TD passes, as part of his four for the day. Deandre Jenkins was the rushing leader with 155 yards.
The SAU defense also came up big, forcing four fumbles. James Thurston led the line with eight (6-2) tackles, one fumble recovery, one pass break-up and one interception for 30 yards.
Against the Muleriders: In the last meeting with SAU (9/14/13), ECU fell 16-50 in Mangolia. The Tigers were led by special teams, scoring a safety and a touchdown on a kickoff return. Spencer Bond finished the night 11-of-31, with three interceptions and added 68 yards rushing.
Defensively junior Robert VanDeripe and sophomore Cole Weber led the team with nine tackles each.
The Muleriders have lost most of their top producers from last season's game, with Tevin McDonald leading the receivers with one catch for 58 yards. Vincent Steward leads the defensive returners with three tackles, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.
The Series: Saturday's meeting is the 16th in the all-time series, with SAU holding a 9-6 advantage after winning the last two games. The Muleriders also lead 2-1 since the teams have been playing as members of the GAC and are 3-2 when playing in Ada. The last time the game was played at Norris Field resulted in a 0-19 loss (Oct. 13, 2012), with the last home win for ECU coming Nov. 12, 2011 (49-6).
Holland GAC Defender of the Week: Senior Daniel Holland came out of the gates ready to battle in his final season in an orange and black uniform and has claimed Great American Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
In the opening game of the season against Arkansas-Monticello, Holland helped the Tigers (1-0) earn a 38-34 come-from-behind victory. The Miami, Fla., native tallied four (3-2) total tackles, a quarterback hurry, forced one fumble and added 3.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 sacks for 23 yards. His TFL, sacks and sack yardage were all career highs and helped the defense hold UAM to just 22 yards rushing for the game. The low yardage has ranked ECU No. 4 in the nation for rushing defense after the opening weekend of NCAA DII action. Holland is also ranked No. 6 in the nation in TFL (3.5) and No. 4 in Sacks (3.0)
All-American Play: In the final minute of the game at Arkansas-Monticello, senior Qumain Black came up with an All-American play to secure the Tigers' 38-34 win. Black reached up for a pass at the same time as Boll Weevil Ivory Washington in the end zone, with Black coming away with the ball for the touchback.
Go JoJo Go: Senior JoJo Snell came out of the gates running, recording a career-high 157 rushing yards and 224 all-purpose yards against SAU. It was the first time Snell tallied over 200 yards in a game. The Moss Point, Miss., native also garnered two touchdowns.
Standing Tall at the Line: The defensive line stood strong for the Tigers in the opening game of the season, allowing just 22 yards on the rush. The low yardage currently ranks ECU No. 4 in the nation in rush defense and helped to earned a No. 41 ranking in total defense.
GAC Predictions: After finishing tied for sixth in the 2013 GAC standings, ECU has been picked to finish fourth in the 2014 GAC Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's head coaches.
The Tigers, who finished 5-5 overall and in the conference a year ago, claimed 63 points in the poll. 2013 top finisher, Henderson State was named as the preseason favorite with 100 points and 10 first-place votes. Harding earned the other first-place vote and a total of 89 points. Ouachita Baptist was third with 84 points and Southern Arkansas was fifth, just three points behind ECU with 60 points.
Southwestern Oklahoma finished sixth (54 points), Arkansas Tech seventh (44 points), Southeastern Oklahoma eighth (41 points), Arkansas-Monticello ninth (37 points), Northwestern Oklahoma 10th (22 points) and Southern Nazarene 11th (11 points).
Preseason Attention: Several members of the Tigers roster have been gaining attention during the preseason from different organizations. Senior Qumain Black was a USA College Football Preseason All-America First Team Defense selection as well as a NewsOK.com Preseason All-Star selection.
Senior JuJu Turituri also claimed USA College Football Preseason honors as a second team defensive pick and a NewsOK.com selection.
Junior Travis Hening (offense) and senior Kellan Taeatafa-De La Rosa (defense) were named to the USA College Football All-America Third Teams. Hening was also selected to the NewsOK.com team, with junior Spencer Bond on offense.
From the Playing Field to Coaching: The majority of the ECU coaching staff consists of familiar names for Tiger football fans. Eight of the current coaches were members of the ECU football program as collegiate athletes. Rashad Jackson, Chad Roark, Austin Crisler, Fred Gaines, Dustin Lasell, Tyler McGrew, George Robbins and Reuben Tiller have all worn an orange and black uniform before moving to a leadership role.
Up Next: The Tigers will return to the road for a Saturday, Sept. 20 game at Ouachita Baptist at 6 p.m.
Next Time at Norris Field: The next home game for the 2014 season is scheduled for Sept. 27 when Henderson State comes to town for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The game is the annual Pink Out Game and will feature the 1984 Team Reunion. The 1984 squad finished with a 10-2 overall record and a 4-0 mark in the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference for the first of four-straight OIC Championships.