The Southwestern Bulldogs are coming off a big win last Thursday night and are looking to move to 2-0 on the season for the first time since 2007.
The Bulldogs are also trying to do something they haven’t done in their last eight tries – win a game on the road. But after a big win, like the 27-23 com-from-behind victory over Harding, coach Dan Cocannouer said he believes this group has the right mental state to do that.
“It’s all about the mindset,” Cocannouer said. “The things that occurred in that game on Thursday night, a break here and a break there, were things that we didn’t get last year.
“I told the guys that when you work hard and go as hard as you can the breaks are going to go your way. But you can’t just expect it to happen without that.”
Southwestern will be facing a more conventional offense in what the Wonder Boys will play, than what it saw last week defending against the triple option.
“The biggest thing for our kids is that they get back to playing like they did at the start of camp,” Cocannouer said. “We’re running our usual stuff because we’re playing a team that runs a lot of things like we do on the offensive and defensive sides. Preparation on that part I think will be a little better, but we have to still stay focused. And I think we’ll be ready for it.”
Cocannouer was impressed with the adjustments his team and staff made for the season opener to get ready for the Bisons’ attack.
“Our defensive coaches, coach Helton (defensive coordinator) and his staff, did a great job preparing. That’s a tough offense when you have only three or four days to prepare for it, like we’ve had before. This year, we had an extra week to cover it. But still, they did a few different things than what they’ve done in the past. They had a few wrinkles in there that were different, but our kids settled down and did what they had to.”
What the Bulldogs will see from the Wonder Boys will definitely be different. ATU logged 299 passing yards and quarterback Drew Halpin threw for a pair of TDs last week in the 38-10 victory over Northwestern.
But SWOSU brings a solid offense to the table as well. The Dawgs got big production from senior quarterback Dustin Stenta, who accounted for all three touchdowns the Bulldogs scored. He threw for 240 yards and two TDs and ran in the game-winner from eight yards out with just more than a minute to play.
Cocannouer had praise for his QB, now in his third year as a starter.
“Dustin knows what we expect,” Cocannouer said. “He made a couple of mistakes, just like anybody else does on a first game. But he learned from that and he never panicked. That was one thing I was glad to see. He kept his composure for what we needed to do and he did it.”
And Cocannouer gave credit all around.
“We were very pleased with what we were able to do on the offensive side. Our offensive line did a great job of coming off the football. We just ran the ball and threw the ball well.”
Teverick Boyd was the recipient of both touchdown passes. The sophomore has already exceeded his scoring total from his freshman year.
Southwestern was picked to finish seventh in the Great American Conference this season and the win over Harding was a good one for Cocannouer’s boys.
“It was a great game for our program and a great game for those kids. We’ve been really on them since we got back in August about the fact that they have to earn the right to win. And what these guys have done as far as work ethic and how hard they’ve worked in practice preparing, I felt like they earned that right.
“I was proud of our kids for how hard they’ve worked.”
And Cocannouer said that he recognizes the growth his team is showing.
“I think the big key in that game was when they were ahead 13-7 at halftime and then they came out and went right down the field and scored and made it 20-7. Two years ago, our kids would have given up, but our kids fought back all the way to the very end.
“And that was something we were excited to see that our players had a little adversity but still hung in there and played their hearts out. We were pleased with that.”
Arkansas Tech owns a slim 5-4 advantage in the overall series and the teams have split close games in the last two years since becoming members of the GAC.
Game time is 6 p.m. from Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field on Saturday.