Ouachita Baptist and Arkansas-Monticello have something in common when the two teams meet for UAM’s homecoming at 3 p.m. today.
Both teams have lost their starting quarterbacks for the season with a knee injury.
OBU (5-0, 3-0 Great American Conference) lost Casey Cooper in the first game of the season, a year after he threw for 1,822 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 957 yards and nine touchdowns.
For the second year in a row, UAM (1-5, 0-4) saw starting quarterback Hunter Leppert put on the shelf with a torn ACL in his right knee, which happened in the loss to East Central on Sept. 22.
But UAM has been a bit more unfortunate. Leppert was the third quarterback to be lost for the season as Canden Dallas (shoulder) and Jacob Lennox (ankle) went down earlier in the year.
The Weevils were also on the losing path before Leppert went down and have yet to win a conference game this year.
Cooper has not been the only quarterback for OBU to suffer an injury. Backup Benson Jordan was injured against Arkansas Tech on Sept. 22 and Star City native Ty Towers has taken the snaps under center.
Towers was a wide receiver to start the season, but is 28-of-41 passing for 341 yards and five touchdowns and he has rushed for 231 yards and a touchdowns.
“Their quarterbacks will always be active with the offense, always the bottom line,” UAM coach Hud Jackson said. “No matter who it is, they are athletic guys that can run. Looking at the statistics, the guys are athletic and Towers is a good football player.”
No matter who is under center, they have helped lead the Tigers to a No. 11 ranking in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll. OBU is ranked one spot ahead of Henderson State, which beat UAM 71-0 last week.
“It’s another good football team this week,” Jackson said. “We are in survival mode and we are going to try and overcome some injuries this week, but we will figure it out.”
UAM senior linebacker Marcus McIlwain tore the ligaments in his knee in last week’s loss and is out for the season. He led the Weevils in tackles with 31.
Even though UAM is essentially out of the conference race since they are down by four games to HSU with four conference games remaining, Jackson said the team is still going to work hard.
“We are going into the games wanting to win and we will continue to work hard and practice hard,” he said. “We are not going to deviate from our expectations. The preparation is not different and we are going to find a way to win.”
Last year, UAM faced OBU in the Boomtown Classic in El Dorado and the Tigers went on to win 38-20. That was also the same game in which Leppert tore his ACL last year.
UAM pulled to 17-13 in the third quarter of last year’s game, but that was as close as the Weevils would get.
“Going back and looking at the game, the gains were there,” Jackson said. “Then there is a moment of something that goes bad and we didn’t know how to handle it. Our game plan this year is to totally trust everything we are doing and just get over that hump.
“That’s the struggle for me as a head coach. Try and figure out what we can do to get us over that hump, and we are trying to figure it out.”