Harding cornerback V'onte Williams did what he was supposed to do during halftime of the Bisons' 14-13 victory over Henderson State on Saturday night at First Security Stadium in Searcy.
He paid attention to his coach.
"The message was: We need our playmakers to make plays," Harding Coach Paul Simmons said.
Williams, a 6-1, 210-pound senior, followed Simmons' instructions, particularly in the final 9:28 of the fourth quarter.
First, he broke up two Henderson passes to the end zone with Harding leading 14-10, batting away one Richard Stammetti pass to leading receiver L'liott Curry like he was blocking a shot in basketball.
"That wasn't even his man," Simmons said of Williams' deflection on a third-and-6 play from the Harding 13.
Henderson, which led 10-7 at halftime, settled for Temo Martinez's 30-yard field goal on fourth down with 8:05 to play. Then the Reddies got the ball back at their 20, down 14-13, with 5:02 to play.
Henderson lost 1 yard on first down, then Stammetti lofted a pass in the direction of Curry, who was running down the middle of the field in Harding territory.
The pass was out of Curry's reach, but Williams went behind Curry and dove to make an interception at the Harding 40.
Williams slid 5 more yards after making the catch.
"I just knew it was now or never," Williams said. "I had to pick up speed. When I saw it was out of my reach, I had to do something else about it. So I jumped out for it."
Simmons marveled at the play.
"That ball looked like there was no way it was catchable," Simmons said. "Just his effort, his laying out. He caught that ball with his fingernails."
Williams' interception, the second by the Bisons off Stammetti, gave the Harding defensive backs a 7-4 edge over the Bisons' receivers in terms of passes caught through four games.
Harding, known for its run-at-all-times Flexbone formation, has attempted 12 passes in four games, so Williams wasn't asking for a position on the Bisons' offense.
"But maybe I could be an example," he said.
Saturday will mark the first of four consecutive weeks when Arkansas' six Great American Conference teams play Oklahoma's six GAC teams.
All of Saturday's games will take place in Arkansas, with next week's games being played in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma teams return to Arkansas on Oct. 19, and Arkansas teams go back to Oklahoma on Oct. 26.
Two Arkansas schools -- Harding and Arkansas Tech -- play their next six games against Oklahoma schools before concluding the regular season against each other on Nov. 16.
Ouachita Baptist, Henderson State, Southern Arkansas and Arkansas-Monticello get back to in-state action on Nov. 2, with those four teams playing each other the final three weeks.
Arkansas schools have won 7 of the 8 games with Oklahoma schools so far this season after winning 27 of 36 games one year ago.
Ouachita Baptist, No. 6 in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll, didn't earn any style points during its 26-21 victory against Southwestern Oklahoma State last Saturday in Weatherford, Okla.
OBU Coach Todd Knight said he is not interested in style points.
"It was a good old-fashioned gut-check," Knight said. "and we're 4-0."
What made the five-point victory margin surprising was that SWOSU (2-2) was coming off a 44-9 road loss to Arkansas-Monticello (2-2).
Knight said comparing scores, reflecting on rankings and worrying about winning streaks is something he leaves to fans and members of the media.
"You can't get into all that," Knight said. "It just gets down to matchups, and who's healthy and who's ready to play. You don't ever really know how they're going to look on Saturday."
It didn't look good for OBU after SWOSU drove 93 yards in 17 plays to take a 21-20 lead with 11:42 to play in the fourth quarter.
Then OBU, which has won 20 consecutive GAC games, held the ball for 20 of the game's final 23 plays, scoring a touchdown, forcing a punt and then running out the clock.
"It's just like we're just doing enough," Knight said. "I think we can play a lot better."
Can we talk?
First-year Arkansas Tech Coach Kyle Shipp is not happy about being 0-4, but he hasn't lost his sense of humor.
Along those lines, Shipp said he might have to visit the Great American Conference office in nearby Dardanelle and seek out Commissioner Will Prewitt.
"Whoever decided to give us these first four games," Shipp said. ... "Sounds like Will and I got to have a sitdown."
Shipp's Wonder Boys host 2-2 Oklahoma Baptist, the GAC's highest-scoring team, on Saturday night in Russellville, after facing four consecutive in-state opponents -- Arkansas-Monticello (2-2), Ouachita Baptist (4-0), Henderson State (3-1) and Southern Arkansas (3-1).
Harding (3-1) is the only other Arkansas school to start the season with four consecutive in-state opponents.
Shipp said he knows there's nothing that can be done about a schedule that was constructed four years ago and will be the same next year.
"Really, as much as I hate the schedule, it's a good thing for our program," he said. "We need to get hit in the mouth. . We've got to build a culture of toughness. It's not fun, but it will help us."
38 is enough
Harding Coach Paul Simmons said he was not lobbying the offensive coaches to give the ball to fullback Cole Chancey 38 times during last Saturday's game with Henderson State, especially on a humid night with a heat index of more than 100 degrees at gametime.
Chancey came up two carries short of Mike Vandlandingham's school record of 40, set in 1978.
"About five times, on the headset with the offensive coaches, I said, 'Keep your eye on Cole, keep your eye on Cole. Does he still have juice? Is he OK?' " Simmons said. "To carry the ball 38 times, especially the way he carries it. ... Every run ends in a trainwreck. Every run ends in a violent collision. And to do it 38 times in a row, most people don't have any idea how difficult that is."
Stats and facts
• Southern Nazarene linebacker Josh Jordan was named the GAC Defensive Player of the Week after making 9 tackles and intercepting a pass in the end zone on the final play of a 22-21 victory over East Central (Okla.). It ended a two-week run by Harding defensive backs Cory Batie and Jacory Nichols earning the honor. ... Ouachita Baptist's Gabe Goodman, a true freshman from Arkadelphia, was the GAC Special Teams Player of the week after kicking field goals of 43 and 33 yards in OBU's 26-21 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma State. ... Oklahoma Baptist quarterback Preston Haire (21-31 passing, 312 yards, 3 TDs; 62 rushing, 1 TD) was named the Offensive Player of the Week after leading his team to a 50-41 victory over East Central.
Sports on 10/04/2019