UAM runs into roadblock
When a team’s All-American wide receiver, one who’s on the cusp of breaking several school records, catches one pass for no yards, that squad is usually in for a long afternoon of football—regardless of the opponent.
So it was for the University of Arkansas at Monticello Saturday afternoon. Senior Jalen Tolliver was completely shut down by Southeastern Oklahoma State University, resulting in a 41-21 Boll Weevil loss.
UAM fell to 2-2 this fall while watching the Savage Storm remain undefeated. Southeastern kept pace with Arkansas Tech University in the Great American Conference but the Weevils didn’t lose too much ground.
The Kelly Green and White is still in the early running for the postseason but these next two weeks will go a long way in determining UAM’s 2017 fate. Coming up this weekend in a trip to defending GAC champion Harding University, which is surprisingly 1-3 after starting out new coach Paul Simmons’ first season in Searcy by dropping its first three outings.
The Weevils return home to Oct. 7 to host the undefeated Wonder Boys at Willis “Convoy” Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium. Two wins would be ideal but anything less than a split of those two contests would severely dampen UAM’s season.
“We are looking forward to the challenge,” head coach Hud Jackson, now in his seventh year, said of the Weevils’ upcoming schedule. “Harding is a good football team. They’re well-coached and I know they’re looking to continue their winning ways. Our players realize the changes and improvements we have to make and they will work hard to do that.”
Kickoff at the Bisons’ First Security Stadium is set for 6 p.m. Fans not able to make the drive north can always catch the play-by-play with “The Voice of the Weevils,” Jimmy Sledge, on either KHBM 93.7 FM/1430 AM or www.uamsports.com.
Elsewhere around the GAC last Saturday, Tech remained unblemished with a 52-0 blowout of Southern Nazarene University while preseason league favorite Southern Arkansas University suffered its second loss of the season, falling to Northwestern Oklahoma State University 38-16.
In other games, it was Harding getting in the win column with a convincing 45-14 win over Oklahoma Baptist University, Ouachita Baptist University rolling over East Central University by the same 45-14 score and Henderson State University dropping Southwestern Oklahoma State University 37-14.
In Durant, Okla., it was just not UAM’s day. On the heels of a 42-point pasting of ECU that gave UAM a two-game win streak, the Weevils couldn’t get untracked against the Savage Storm. The visitors trailed the entire afternoon, despite senior Austin Harris’ first touchdown reception of the year that pulled UAM closer than it would get the rest of the game.
“It was a tough game against a good Southeastern Oklahoma State team,” Jackson noted. “We had our chances at the end to pull within six, but had a fumble. We gave up a big play on special teams and had an interception inside five-yard line.
“Offensively, we struggled at times. We just did not play consistent enough to win.”
Tolliver was not the only one, the coach noted, but “Jalen did not have a productive game.” He remains 260 yards away from breaking Anthony Giovingo’s career receiving yards mark of 2,646 yards in 1995-98 as well as five scores from erasing one of the school’s oldest records, the 29 receiving touchdowns recorded by Hubert Heflin in 1949-52.
The Rayville, La. product, who still has at least seven games remaining in his final season, is now just 49 receptions from owning the career pass receptions performance at UAM, currently held by Jywin Ceaser, who caught 194 passes between 2007 and 2010.
Despite giving up 424 yards of total offense to Southeastern and losing the turnover battle 3-1, Jackson had praise for his stop troops. Sophomore transfer linebacker Gabe Brace led the UAM defense with nine tackles, four of which were solo.
“I thought our defense played well,” Jackson said. “We put them in bad situations. We had a few injuries and a targeting issue, so our safety position was depleted. Gabe Brace played well on the defensive side of the ball. He played really fast.”
Harris hauled in a one-yard pass from junior quarterback Cole Sears with three minutes gone in the second quarter that, with sophomore placekicker Josh Marini’s first of three successful extra points, made the score 10-7 SOSU but by the time the Weevils found the end zone again, they were behind by 17 points.
Sophomore wide receiver Ralph Singleton and junior running back Imani Riley scored UAM’s other two touchdowns on runs, Singleton’s from 23 yards out in the third quarter and Riley’s from the 10-yard line in the final period, but each time Southeastern had the answer.
Sears was only 9-of-26 for a season-low 79 yards through the air—and threw two of the three UAM interceptions. He did, however, add to his rushing total with 32 yards on 10 carries.
Riley, a former Monticello Billie, overtook his signal caller for the team rushing lead with his best game of the season, rushing for 93 yards on 11 carries. With Tolliver basically ineffective all afternoon, Harris was the Weevils’ leading receiver, catching three passes for 45 yards.
“We just need to get refocused,” Jackson said. “We have a good football team but we must be consistent throughout the game.”