For the first time this season, the Ouachita Baptist football team will look to rebound after a very tough loss a week ago as the Tigers take a trip across the state line to face No. 17 Delta State Saturday in a Gulf South Conference game at Parker Field at McCool Stadium.
Ouachita Baptist (2-0 overall, 1-1 GSC), which began the season with back-to-back wins over Fort Lewis College and West Georgia, gave up some big plays last week in a 29-6 loss to top-ranked Valdosta State. Despite the setback, the Tigers had the lead for two quarters against the Blazers.
Zach Wright booted a season-long 36-yard field goal in the first quarter and Ouachita Baptist held off Valdosta State in the second quarter to take a 3-2 lead into the half.
However, big plays proved to be costly as Valdosta State outscored the Tigers in the second half, 27-3.
The Blazers got a 76 and 38 yard touchdown passes from Chris Hart to grab a 16-3 advantage. Just before the end of the third though, Wright, who ranks ninth nationally and is 5-of-6 on the season, drilled a 30-yarder to cut the margin. But Valdosta State proved to be too tough, connecting on two more big plays of 25-yard or more to get the 29-6 win.
One of the biggest positives to come from the game was how well Lance Parker was protected under center. The offensive line has yet to yield a sack through the first three games.
Parker, meanwhile against Valdosta State, was 28-of-49 for 227 yards. For the first time all season, the ground game sputtered, accounting for just 97 yards.
Jerry McNeil led the Tiger defense with eight tackles, including seven assisted. Terrence Garret and Robert McKee each finished with six tackles.
In order for Ouachita Baptist to walk away from Saturday’s contest, they’ll have to slow down a Delta State football team, which averages 40 points and 493 yards per game.
Garrett DeWitt and Blake Barnes had been the bulk of Rick Rhodes’ offense at Delta State.
DeWitt has competed 65 of 112 passes for 888 yards with nine touchdowns. Barnes is 25-of-41 for 284 and two scores.
A trio of receivers highlights the Statesmen’s offense besides DeWitt and Barnes. Chad Schroeder, Greg Betterson and Rob Moore have caught a bevy of passes this season. Schroeder has 28 catches for 307 yards, while Betterson has 17 catches for 339 yards. Both of them account for seven touchdowns. More is right behind the duo with 156 yards on 10 receptions.
The Statesmen (2-1, 1-0) won an overtime thriller, outlasting Harding on the road last week, 56-49, in overtime.
Ouachita Baptist enters the game having lost the previous five meetings to the Green and White. The two schools met last season with both having 3-0 records at A.U. Williams Field.
Delta State jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Julius Pruitt caught a 35-yard pass from Lance Parker to tie the game at 7 at the end of one quarter. Big plays haunted Ouachita Baptist for the better part of the game as Dedrick Wilson scored on a 64-yard run to give the Statesmen a 14-7 advantage in the second.
The Tigers could only get a Wright 23-yard field goal and Delta State ended the first half with another score – a 38-yard pass from Wilson to Schroeder – to give the Statesmen a 21-10 lead at the half.
Delta State scored 21 points in the second half to give Ouachita Baptist its first loss of the season, 42-10.
Saturday’s contest will also mark the return of Tigers coach Todd Knight to Delta State. Knight began his coaching career at Delta State from 1986-89 as assistant before returning in 1993 to lead the program as head coach. Knight guided the Statesmen from 1993-98 and helped lead Delta State to its first Gulf South Conference championship in 25 years.
The Tigers travel 3:00 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27 to Parker Field at McCool Stadium to take on No. 17 Delta State. The game can be heard on the Ouachita Football Network through the following stations: Arkadelphia (KYXK-FM 106.9); Hot Springs (KBHS-AM 1420); Magnolia (KVMA-AM 630); El Dorado (KELD-FM 106.5); Nashville (KNAS-FM 105.5); Mena (KQOR-FM 105.3) or on the web at: mms://rain.obu.edu/tigerathletics/