MONTICELLO — In order to finish with only its second winning record in about a decade, Arkansas-Monticello will have to accomplish something it hasn’t done in three years — win on the road.
“It is really important for us to get our first road win,” senior wide receiver Jamal Nixon said. “We have a positive mindset and a good attitude.
“The preparations have been going great, so we have to keep that up.”
UAM (5-5, 4-5 GAC) will travel to Wilkins Stadium in Magnolia to face Southern Arkansas (5-4, 5-4 GAC) in the second annual Battle of the Timberlands for the Boll Weevils final game of the season.
“Even though it is our last game, we are practicing as if we are going into the playoffs,” Nixon said. “… To get into the mindset, that this is a big game and we really need this game.”
Last year, SAU scored 20 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 30-14 win over the Boll Weevils in Monticello as the Muleriders captured the first-ever trophy.
UAM has lost two straight, following last week’s 35-10 setback to Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia. The Weevils scored on their opening drive of the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, but managed just 82 yards for the rest of the game.
“We came out and it was electric,” Nixon said. “It was amazing; marching down the field and put points on the board.”
With 10 minutes left in first quarter, UAM capped a 66-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Dumas native Rod Smith. It gave the Weevils a 7-0 lead but it was their only touchdown of the game.
Freshman kicker Jamie McGee kicked a 24-yard field goal with 13:30 left in the first half to give UAM its only other points of the game.
“It was a let down at OBU because of the amount of work we put in,” Nixon said. “… We overwork ourselves sometimes I think — that’s just us being competitors.”
Nixon has 47 catches for 489 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns. Skyler Scott leads the Weevils with 49 catches for 638 yards with four touchdowns.
In their final home game of the season, UAM lost 37-21 to nationally ranked Henderson State after turning the ball over five times and falling behind 24-0 by the end of the first quarter.
UAM lost by just 16 points for their only loss at Willis “Convoy” Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium after allowing just seven points in the second half.
“I think both games were really a let down,” Nixon said. “Because we gave those games away.
“That’s what really hurts the most. We knew we could play on the field with both of those teams. We just let ourselves down.”
One bright spot for the Weevils in the last two weeks has been their defense. Although put in bad field position several times, UAM’s defense — led by junior Keith Reynolds — has played well including allowing just one offensive touchdown in the last two second halves.
“I wasn’t here last season, but to come in and help the team out, it felt great,” Reynolds said. “If we turn it around from a losing program to a winning program, it will be better for us in the future.”
OBU running back Chris Rycraw scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter in last week’s game but in the loss to Henderson State, UAM only allowed one touchdown in the second half — a punt return for a score in the third quarter.
“We are just going extra hard for those seniors,” Reynolds said. “So we can end the season pretty well.”
Reynolds, who leads the team with 82 total tackles including 51 solo tackles, said the focus this week has been just wanting to send out the eight seniors with a win.
“This is their last game,” Reynolds said. “We got to finish right.”
Reynolds also has five tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
UAM head coach Hud Jackson took over in 2009 and in that span, UAM has yet to win a game on the road. Reynolds hopes it changes this week.
“That would be amazing,” Reynolds said. “To come back home and ring the bell. That will feel totally different.”