MONTICELLO — In Saturday’s season finale against Southern Arkansas, the Arkansas-Monticello Boll Weevils have a chance to finish with a winning season — something they’ve only accomplished one other time in the last 10 years — but according to head coach Hud Jackson there is a whole lot more to gain than just a six-win season.
“A win against SAU would have a whole lot more meaning than just a winning record,” Jackson said. “It helps you in recruiting and it catapults you into the offseason.
“There are a lot of things this game could bring a lot of positive to, but I don’t think there is anything more than just to do something good for our seniors.”
For UAM’s eight seniors today’s game against the Muleriders (5-4, 5-4 GAC) is their final game of their career. Jackson said it is important to send them out with a victory.
“I told our guys if you can’t win for yourself, or win for this program then win it for those guys,” Jackson said.
UAM (5-5, 4-5) has a chance at its first winning season since it went 7-4 in 2008 but in order to do that, the Weevils must accomplish something they haven’t done in three years — win on the road.
“It has been a struggle for three years,” Jackson said. “There is a lot to be gained from this game.
“… We want our kids to feel the pressure. I’m always a big believer that pressure games bring out better competitors.
“Hopefully our guys will react that way. It is going to be a big one. We have to step up to the challenge.”
Jackson said this senior class is special because they have been through “all the peaks and valleys” UAM has seen in the last three years.
“These guys have had their feet in this program for three years, too,” Jackson said. “Its going to be the last class that is going to be small. We are going to have 20 to 25 seniors from here on out.
“So I guess there is a special bond with those guys.”
Senior offensive lineman Rusty Gulledge, of Crossett, has been with the program for five years after redshirting his freshman year. Senior defensive end Clifton Price, a Star City native, is a two-year letterman.
Senior defensive tackle Calvin Ursin came to UAM with Jackson from Central Arkansas. Jackson also said he had Louisiana ties with wide receiver Jamal Nixon.
“These guys have weathered the storm,” Jackson said. “The first year when it was a transition year, second year when it wasn’t very good and now they are experiencing some positive things.
“… They deserve something good to happen.”
Saturday’s game, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at Wilkins Stadium in Magnolia, is the second annual Battle of the Timberlands. Last season, SAU won the inaugural game by defeating UAM by a score of 30-14. SAU scored 20 unanswered second half points in the come-from-behind win.
“They are a good football team,” Jackson said. “Obviously on the offensive side of the ball, they have a very good quarterback. The guy has unbelievable numbers. He ain’t afraid to throw the ball down the field.”
SAU quarterback Tyler Sykora leads the offense with 2,519 pass yards on 168 completions with 26 touchdowns. His favorite target is Chris Terry, who has caught 40 passes for 913 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Mark Johnson leads the Muleriders with 175 carries for 771 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I think the thing we are going to have to do is limit our mistakes,” Jackson said. “Every game that we’ve made minimal mistakes are ones we have been in or won.
“… You can’t go into a game like SAU and play an average game and expect to win. It’s not going to happen. Not against these guys.”
UAM is coming off a 35-10 setback against Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia. After scoring a touchdown on its opening possession thanks to a 66-yard drive, UAM managed just 82 yards for the rest of the game. They also went 2-for-16 on third down including 0-for-4 in the second half.
Against OBU, starting quarterback Cody Trimble finished 9-of-19 for 67 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Nick Williams had 14 carries for 52 yards and backup quarterback Colton Morrison was 5-of-9 for 14 yards.
Junior Chris Rycraw led OBU with 29 carries with 198 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson said of all the things they try to emphasize every week — third down is probably the most important aspect to winning a game.
“If you are on defense and you are stopping them on third down then your offense is getting the ball,” Jackson said. “If you are making third down conversions, you’re extending drives, holding the ball a little bit longer, and you’re getting the ball in the red zone.
“Third down is the key to all good football teams. If you’re good on third down, you are probably winning a bunch of games.”