MONTICELLO – Arkansas-Monticello is looking for its first win on the road of the season today when the Boll Weevils travel to Searcy to face Great American Conference opponent Harding.
“We just have to be consistent in everything we do,” UAM head coach Hud Jackson said. “Every time we have won, we have had a low number of penalties and we have been on the plus side of the turnover margin.
“We also got to make sure we are really good on third down.”
Jackson said third down is the most important down in football.
“It means a change of possession or a momentum swing,” Jackson said. “So much can happen on third down.”
UAM (3-2, 3-2 GAC) hasn’t won an away game since 2010 when the Weevils defeated Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia.
“It has been way too long for us not to have a road win,” Jackson said. “It is definitely a monkey on our back.
“But if we accomplish those goals and limit the mistakes, that is our best chance for success.”
Harding (3-1, 3-1 GAC) is searching for its fourth straight win after defeating Southern Arkansas 28-14 last week.
“They present a challenge defensively because they are putting up some big yardage and they do it so well,” Jackson said. “The biggest challenge is you cannot lock into one guy.
“…They are very good defensively and are extremely athletic.”
Harding junior fullback Romo Westbrook rushed for 171 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown against Southern Arkansas and earned his second career GAC Offensive Player of the Week honor.
Westbrook has 380 yards on 44 carries with four touchdowns for the season.
Last week, the Weevils forced four turnovers, tallied a season-high 236 rushing yards and limited Arkansas Tech to just 178 yards of total offense to defeat the Wonder Boys 34-0 at home.
“I think our defense is very disciplined,” Jackson said. “Coach (Keith) Scott does a tremendous job and he pays attention to the details.”
It was UAM’s first shutout victory over a conference opponent since defeating Mississippi College 17-0 at home in the third week of the 1995 season.
UAM will have their hands full with Harding, who averages over 400 yards rushing per game and ranked No. 1 in Division II in passing yards per completion (29.05).
“We have gone up against some good offenses,” Jackson said. “With Tech, we knew they were going to have a rushing game and our defense attacked and prepared all week for it.
“I think it is direct result with how we played (last week).”
For Harding, Jacob Moore and Keenan Kellett split time at the quarterback position. In three games, Moore is 11 of 23 for 376 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. In two games, Kellett is 5 of 16 for 124 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Harding is really good at making you pay for your mistakes,” Jackson said. “We got to continue to play assignment football and be an unselfish defense.
“Because if we don’t, Harding has the ability to break one off for 70 yards. We have to buy in to what our assignments are and if we do that, that’s our best chance to be successful.”
In the win over Tech, Dumas native Rod Smith became UAM’s first 100-yard rusher this season and was the first UAM player with at least 30 carries in a game since 2008 with 32 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Smith said he likes having that type of “work-horse” role, because he knows it benefits the team.
“Basically, I’ve got to accept it, because it keeps our offense going,” Smith said. “It opens up so much more for our receivers…
“In the long run, we know that is what is going to help us win games.”
The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at First Security Stadium.