ARKADELPHIA — In a Homecoming matchup that has been building for several weeks, No. 9 Henderson State and No. 20 Harding face off on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Arkadelphia with GAC and NCAA playoff implications on the line.
TOP STORYLINES: SETTING THE SCENE
– It will be a contrast of offensive styles at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and Ruggles Field, as the Bisons enter with the nation’s top rushing offense (350.7 yards per game) and the Reddies boast one of the top scoring and passing offenses in the country this season.
– Henderson has had its struggles recently against Harding. The Bisons have won four of the last six meetings, including the last three in Arkadelphia. The winner of this game has gone to the NCAA DII Playoffs in seven of the last eight years. Saturday is the 55th meeting all-time between the schools and HSU holds a 32-21-1 advantage in the series.
REDDIES REPORT: OFFENSE
– The Reddies once again exploded on offense against East Central. Henderson put up 59 points and 559 yards of offense on 75 plays, including 202 yards on the ground. HSU remains Top-3 in all of NCAA Division II in scoring offense (47.7 points per game) and has recorded a conference-leading 38 touchdowns this fall.
– Adam Morse was electric against ECU and was named GAC Offensive Player of the Week after accounting for seven touchdowns in the win. Morse threw for 357 yards and six touchdowns and also ran for another score. He leads the league with 20 passing touchdowns and a completion percentage of 68.5%. Morse is Top-15 nationally with 1726 passing yards.
– L’liott Curry had yet another big game on Saturday as he continues to stake his claim as the best receiver in NCAA DII football. Curry had eight receptions for 168 yards and three scores against the Tigers. He now has a GAC-best 734 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021. Curry has caught 23 touchdown passes in 18 career games at HSU.
– The ground attack continues to be a quiet backbone of the Reddie offense. Henderson has run for 200 or more yards as a team in five of its six games this year, and ranks third in the GAC in rushing offense (217 yards per game). HSU has five different players with over 150 rushing yards this season.
– Duce Sproles and Mike Benning have had a knack for finding the end zone this fall. Sproles has scored a touchdown in all six of Henderson’s games, while Benning has scored in each of the last three contests for the Reddies.
– While only one players has eclipsed 300 yards rushing this fall, Henderson boasts five different players with 150 rushing yards or more through six games.
– The Reddies’ offensive line has been stellar all year and ranks third in the GAC in fewest sacks allowed with just four. The only teams who have given up less are Harding and Ouachita Baptist (3) who have combined to attempt just 92 passes.
– Offensively, Henderson has scored a touchdown on 37 of its 73 total possessions this season, or 50.6% of the time it has the ball. If you remove the four possessions in which the Reddies ran out the clock at the half or end of the game, that figure jumps to 53.6%. HSU has come away with points on 66.7% of its drives this year.
REDDIES REPORT: DEFENSE
– The Henderson defense forced four more turnovers on Saturday in the win over East Central and is now No. 5 in the country in turnovers gained this year with 17 total. The Reddies remain No. 1 nationally in interceptions with 14.
– As a team, the Reddies rank fifth in the conference in total defense (369.2 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (22.5 points per game). HSU has held its opponent to 24 points or fewer in five of its six contests this fall.
– The Reddies’ rush defense has been stout over the last two games. After surrendering 240 and 201 yards on the ground in back-to-back games against UAM and SAU, Henderson has held Southeastern Oklahoma and ECU to a combined 220 yards rushing on 3.7 yards per carry in the last two weeks.
– Dedric O’Bryant added to his interception collection versus the Tigers by picking off two passes. O’Bryant was named GAC Player of the Week and now has four picks on the season, which is best in the conference and tied for second-most of any player in the country. The sophomore has six pass breakups and 10 passes defended this year.
– Jayden Ford continued his big season against East Central by recording a sack and a forced fumble in the win. Ford ranks second in the GAC in both tackles for loss (8.0) and sacks (5.0). He has recorded at least one tackle for loss in every game this fall and has a sack in five of Henderson’s six games.
– HSU is one of the least-penalized teams in the conference and averages just 51.2 penalty yards per game. Henderson has also not hurt itself with turnovers and leads the conference with a turnover margin of +8, which ranks 13th in all of NCAA DII.
– No. 20 Harding comes into Saturday’s pivotal GAC clash 5-1 on the year. The Bisons are 4-0 since falling 31-30 at Southeastern Oklahoma State in week two, and have outscored their opponents 155-44 in those four wins.
– The Bisons are known for their wishbone offense, which produces incredible rushing stats. This season is no different, as Harding comes into the game with the nation’s No. 1 rushing offense (350.7 yards per game). HU is the only DII school in the country averaging more than 300 yards on the ground per game.
– Harding is led by senior fullback Cole Chancey, who was a 2019 Harlon Hill finalist and has carried for 561 yards and 11 touchdowns already this season. Last week, Chancey broke Alan “Snake” Dixon’s 48-year old career rushing record at HU and now has 4,234 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns in his career.
– The Bisons have two other players with over 300 yards rushing this season: slot back Omar Sinclair (475) and quarterback Preston Paden (335). HU leads the nation in time of possession (37 minutes per game) and held the ball for 40-plus minutes against both Southern Arkansas and Ouachita Baptist.
– Defensively, Harding is near the top of the league in all statistical categories. The Bisons have the No. 8 scoring defense in the country (12.6 points per game) and are 10th nationally in total defense (252.7 yards per game). HU leads the GAC with 16 sacks this year and has surrendered just seven passing scores in six games.
– On the defensive side of the ball, Harding looks to lineman Nate Wallace, who has racked up five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season. The Bisons boast 19 different players who have recorded at least a half-tackle for loss. Only two teams have thrown for over 200 yards against HU and only two have rushed for over 100 yards.
THE COACHING MATCHUP
– Henderson State is led by head coach Scott Maxfield, who is 114-57 in his 16 seasons at the school. Maxfield is five wins away from tying HSU legend Sporty Carpenter for the most wins in program history (119). In his career with the Reddies, Maxfield is 9-6 against Harding.
– The Bisons are led by Paul Simmons, who is in his fifth year as head coach at Harding but has been on staff in some capacity in Searcy since 2006. Simmons is 35-10 at the helm of the program and has led HU to three NCAA Playoff appearances in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Harding has won three playoff games under Simmons, all of which came in 2017 when the Bisons reached the NCAA DII semifinals. As a player at Harding, Simmons was a three-time All-American defensive lineman and recorded 415 career tackles.
THE LAST MEETING
– Henderson State gave No. 22 Harding all it could handle on the road in Searcy, Arkansas, but the Reddies came up just short in a 14-13 slugfest to take their first loss of the season.
– The Reddies led 10-7 at halftime but the Bisons used a 14-play, 60-yard touchdown drive which took nearly nine minutes off the clock to seize a 14-10 lead in the third quarter.
– The Reddie offense was limited to just 44 yards in the second half, as the Bisons held the ball for nearly 24 of the final 30 minutes in the game. Harding ran 79 plays to just 47 for HSU.
– Defensively, Henderson recovered three Harding fumbles and held the Bisons to 336 yards of offense in the loss. Josh Puryear had a strong showing and finished with 12 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.
– Saturday’s game is Homecoming for Henderson State and there will be several events for alumni and students alike to participate in during the week in the lead up to Saturday’s 2 p.m. kickoff.
– Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. is Heart and Key’s Homecoming pep rally behind Caplinger Hall, which is open to students and the public. During the pep rally, the Top-10 candidates for the Homecoming Court will be revealed. At 8 p.m. is the annual bonfire which will feature food and music.
– The presentation of the 2021 Homecoming Court will take place on Ruggles Field in Carpenter-Haygood Stadium beginning at 1:30 p.m. before kickoff.
– Three inflatables will be available in the Wells parking lot for children as a part of pregame festivities.
IMPORTANT GAMEDAY INFORMATION
– Several different parking options are available for game day. CADC SCAT buses will be staged at the corner of 12th and Wilson streets two hours prior to kickoff, allowing fans to use the parking lots around Henderson’s main campus. The free shuttles will travel down 12th street and drop fans off in two locations: the front of the Wells Center on M.H. Russell Drive, for those who wish to partake in pregame activities, and at the main gate to Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and Ruggles Field. The shuttles will also run up to an hour after the game ends, allowing fans to board at the main gate as they exit and ride back to their cars on campus.
– The two other available public parking lots are the Formby Center lot, located directly in front of the Formby Athletic Complex and next to the Reddie Villas, and the South Wells Center lot, located directly in front of the Duke Wells Center.
– For Reddie Club members, Red and Gray reserved lots are located directly behind the main stands and above Clyde Berry Field. These lots require your Reddie Club parking passes. Handicapped parking is also available in the Red and Gray lot directly behind the main stands.
– Ticket windows at the stadium open two hours before game time. Tickets can also be purchased digitally at hsusports.com/tickets. For more information on buying tickets online, CLICK HERE. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children. All students, faculty or staff with a valid Henderson State ID will be admitted for free, as will children five years old and younger.
WHERE TO LISTEN
– The game will be broadcast and available by the Henderson State Sports Network on KDEL 100.9 FM and KVRC 1240 AM in Arkadelphia, KWPS 99.7 FM in Hot Springs, KYXK 106.7 FM in Gurdon, and KZYP 104.1 FM/1310 AM in Malvern. Coverage begins one hour prior to kickoff. The radio broadcast can also be heard on the web by going to the audio link for the game at hsusports.com.