The Muleriders of Southern Arkansas roll into Durant this weekend on the coattails of a 56-0 season-opening crush over Texas College.
But things won’t be so simple for SAU at Paul Laird Field. They will be going from an NAIA opponent to a GAC contender in the Southeastern Savage Storm – and the Storm have the benefit of an extra week’s rest after a 31-6 win over Texas A&M Commerce on Sept. 1.
The Storm also hold bragging rights from last year’s 24-21 win over the Muleriders.
The Savage Storm home football opener kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday. Both teams enter the contest with 1-0 records, already looking up at a pair of GAC foes with 2-0 records. It’s early, but there is always something at stake in college football.
SE Coach Ray Richards said the lopsided first game by the Muleriders makes it difficult to gauge their true abilities. Texas College (0-3) is known for dropping early season games to bigger foes.
“It’s hard to say because they’ve only played one game,” Richards said. “It’s almost like playing the first game again. I’m sure they’ll do some things we haven’t seen.”
What we did see last week was the Muleriders’ junior quarterback Tyler Sykora throw for 314 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Rafael Thomas was beneficiary of three of those TDs on his way to a 166-yard afternoon.
Richards is also concerned about SAU junior running back Mark Johnson.
“They’ve got three kids in the right places that could concern us,” he said. “Southern has got some really good players. They’ve improved a lot, and I think they are going to win a lot of games this year. But we’re going to game-plan them. They have a couple game-breaker type players, and we’ve got to keep them contained.”
The Savage Storm defense will have to find a way to shut this trio down, and it seems the offense could have some fits, too, but again the week one numbers are deceptive. SAU held Texas College to just 45 total yards of offense, including a paltry 17 in the run game.
As both teams enter Saturday with big wins under their collective belts, Richards is spot-on to describe this first GAC contest, which he expects to be a “hard-fought game.”