The Boll Weevils are now part of Great American Conference, which was formed this past summer and includes former GSC members Arkansas Tech, Harding, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist and Southern Arkansas, along with several institutions that used to compete in the Lone Star Conference.
UAM (2-1) is coming off its first loss of the season — a 38-20 setback to Ouachita Baptist last week — after beating Arkansas Tech, 38-31, and Texas College, 41-0, in the first two games of the year.
The Boll Weevils are led by a first-year head coach and a true freshman quarterback in 2011, with William “Hud” Jackson taking over the program after serving the past six seasons as the associate head coach at the University of Central Arkansas. Tonight’s matchup will mark the second straight game UWG (1-1) has gone up against a new head coach.
Signal-caller Hunter Leppert hasn’t had much trouble adjusting to the college level three games into his first season, earning GAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading the Boll Weevils to a come-from-behind win over Arkansas Tech in his first collegiate appearance on Sept. 3.
Leppert was 29-of-46 through the air for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the contest and is 72-of-119 for 771 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions on the season.
UWG coach Daryl Dickey noted that Leppert has been impressive, but he is hopeful his defense has the remedy for that tonight.
“Well, so far he has been. He’s a good football player. We’ll see how he performs when he gets here Saturday,” Dickey said.
Receiver D.J. Stephens leads the UAM skill unit with 21 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns, while Nakita Myles paces the Boll Weevils’ pedestrian ground attack with 160 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
UAM is a pass-first team, having more than twice as many yards through the air (819) than on the ground (405).
The Wolves, meanwhile, have done the bulk of their damage on the ground behind the senior backfield tandem of Yusuf Holloway and James Kennebrew, along with junior quarterback Emmanuel Taylor.
Kennebrew suffered an ankle injury during the second quarter of the Wolves’ 23-20 home win over Miles on Sept. 15 and wouldn’t return to the game, but he has practiced this week and will suit up tonight.
And while the defense has played well two games into the season, Dickey is looking for more production from his offense. With only three offensive touchdowns to its credit thus far, the UWG coach expects things to pick up as Taylor gets more comfortable under center.
The Wolves have committed seven turnovers in two games, numbers Dickey wants to see decrease. He also noted that his ball club needs to work on finishing drives.
“We’ve done well offensively in the middle of the field. We’ve got down in the red zone two ball games in a row and have kind of sputtered a little bit. We’ve got to learn finish. Finish our opportunities and finish our drives,” Dickey said. “With the defense, it’s a little bit of the same thing. They’ve got to finish their series and get their stops and get off the field. We’ve got to continue to give our play-makers an opportunity in special teams. If we’ll finish offensively, get off the field defensively and play well in special teams, we’ll be a good football team.”
And with tonight marking the second of three consecutive home dates, the Wolves will try to get on a roll early in the 2011 season and avenge a 31-24 setback to the Boll Weevils last year in Monticello, Ark.
“They’ve played well in a couple of their ball games. They came from behind and beat Arkansas Tech, which Arkansas Tech’s a good football team. Ouachita Baptist got after them a little bit last week. But they’re an athletic bunch and they’ll be all over the place trying to create problems for us on offense and defense,” Dickey said. “We’ve got to be discipline and do the things it takes to be successful.”