ARKADELPHIA — No. 13 Henderson State will play for a GAC title and a likely NCAA DII Playoff berth on Saturday at 1 p.m. when the Reddies’ season culminates in the 94th Battle of the Ravine against rival Ouachita Baptist at Cliff Harris Stadium.
TOP STORYLINES: SETTING THE SCENE
– HSU enters after a dramatic 36-34 victory over Oklahoma Baptist last weekend in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The Reddies hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired to keep their championship and playoff hopes alive. Ouachita dropped its first regular season home game since 2017 last Saturday to Southeastern Oklahoma, 35-21.
– OBU leads the all-time series 44-43-6 and has won the last four meetings. No team has won five-straight in the series since the Reddies won eight-straight from 1988-1998. The last five contests played at Cliff Harris Stadium have all been decided by a touchdown or less.
REDDIES REPORT: OFFENSE
– Henderson’s offense came through when it needed it most on Saturday against Oklahoma Baptist. The Reddies out-gained OKBU 580-367 and came up with a clutch 11-play, 73-yard drive set set up David Heaton for the game-winning field goal. The drive started on HSU’s 1-yard line with 2:14 left and the Reddies out of timeouts.
– L’liott Curry earned his second GAC Player of the Week award of the season following the big win after securing 10 catches for 155 yards and two scores. Curry ranks second in NCAA DII in receptions (83) and third in receiving yards (1224) and touchdowns (14). The All-American candidate has 28 touchdowns in 22 career games at HSU.
– Adam Morse had his fifth 300-plus yard game of the season against the Bison and threw for 373 yards and two touchdowns. Morse leads the GAC in passing yards (3136) and is one of just six quarterbacks nationally with over 3000 yards passing this season. He is just the fourth player in HSU history to ever throw for 3000 yards in a season, joining Kevin Rodgers, Nick Hardesty and Roch Carpentier.
– The Reddie offense continues to be one of the most balanced in the country. HSU is No. 2 nationally in total offense (505.3 yards per game) and one of just three programs averaging over 500 yards per game. Henderson is 11th in NCAA DII in passing offense (315.7 yards per game) and 35th in rushing offense (189.6 yards per game).
– HSU’s high-flying passing game has grabbed headlines, but the Reddies have rushed for over 100 yards in every game this year, including six games with over 200 yards.
– Henderson has taken advantage of a multitude of weapons offensively this fall. Receiver Xavier Malone has been a steady No. 2 option and has caught 62 passes for 871 yards and three scores, while tight end Mike Benning has 330 receiving yards and three touchdowns. HSU has four players who have rushed for 300 or more yards this season, including leading rusher Duce Sproles, who has 562 yards and nine touchdowns.
– The Reddies have been excellent at maintaining possession and sustaining drives in 2021. HSU has run 70 or more plays in seven games and has run more plays than its opponent in eight of 10 games. Henderson is third in the GAC in both time of possession (31:55) and third down conversion rate (53.1%). The Reddies have more first downs (26.9 per game) than any team in the league and have won the time of possession battle in all but two contests.
REDDIES REPORT: DEFENSE-SPECIAL TEAMS
– The Reddie defense rose to the occasion on Saturday against a strong Oklahoma Baptist offense. HSU limited the Bison to just 367 yards, which was their second-lowest offensive output of the season. Henderson also forced five OKBU punts and came up with a big turnover deep in Bison territory which helped turn the tide in the third quarter.
– Freshman defensive back Cameron Thomas came up with the defensive play of the game for HSU against Oklahoma Baptist when he picked off a tipped ball at the OKBU 18-yard line. The Reddies scored moments later to retake the lead. The interception was the third of the year for Thomas, who also has four pass breakups.
– As a unit, the Reddies are fifth in the GAC in total defense (373.1 yards per game), fifth in rushing defense (172.9 yards per game) and seventh in passing defense (200.2 yards per game). Henderson is No. 5 nationally in interceptions with 16 this season. The Reddies have recorded at least one interception in eight different games and have four contests with three picks.
– HSU has been solid against the run this fall. Henderson has held four different opponents to under 100 yards rushing and has surrendered over 200 yards on the ground just three times. The Reddies defended Ouachita’s rushing attack well back in 2019 and limited OBU to 169 yards on 3.6 yards per carry.
– Kicker David Heaton was named GAC Special Team Player of the Week on Monday after serving as the hero for the Reddies in their win over Oklahoma Baptist. Heaton drilled a 43-yard field goal into the wind as time expired to win it for HSU. Heaton connected on field goals of 22, 40 and 43 yards and scored 12 points for the Reddies in the victory. Since taking over the starting role against Arkansas Tech, Heaton is 7-for-7 on field goal attempts.
SCOUTING OUACHITA BAPTIST
– No. 20 Ouachita Baptist comes into Saturday’s Battle of the Ravine 8-2 on the year after dropping its first home conference game since 2017 last Saturday to Southeastern Oklahoma, 35-21. The Tigers are No. 10 in the latest Central Region Rankings and need to defeat the Reddies to have a chance at extending their NCAA DII Playoff streak to four season.
– OBU’s rush-heavy offense has been a load for defenses to handle this season. The Tigers are No. 3 nationally in rushing offense (290.6 yards per game) and are tied for second in the country with 42 rushing touchdowns this fall. Ouachita has run the ball 493 times this year, which ranks third in NCAA DII.
– The Tigers have a pair of stud tailbacks in TJ Cole and Kendel Givens. Cole leads the GAC, and is No. 4 in the country, with 1448 rushing yards this season. He averages 144.8 yards per game on the ground and has gone over 100 yards in nine of OBU’s 10 games. Givens leads all of NCAA DII with 22 rushing touchdowns and has scored multiple touchdowns in seven games. Together, Cole and Givens have combined for 73% of Ouachita’s rushing yards and 37 of its 42 rushing scores.
– Ouachita puts the ball in the air infrequently and Tiger quarterback Grant Allen has attempted just 118 passes in 2021. OBU has been under 100 yards passing in seven games.
– Defensively, the Tigers are stout and rank second in the conference in both scoring defense (19.3 points per game) and total defense (310.5 yards per game). Ouachita is No. 1 in the league and No. 16 nationally in pass defense (152.1 yards per game). The only team to throw for 300-plus yards on OBU this year was Oklahoma Baptist in the first week of the season.
– OBU has won the last three GAC titles and has not lost back-to-back games since the 2016 season. The Tigers have not dropped consecutive home games at Cliff Harris Stadium since 2017 and are 35-2 in their last 37 GAC contests dating back to that season.
THE COACHING MATCHUP
– Henderson State is led by head coach Scott Maxfield, who is 117-58 in his 17 years and 16 seasons at the school. Maxfield is two wins away from tying HSU legend Sporty Carpenter for the most wins in program history (119). In his career with the Reddies, Maxfield is 7-7 against Ouachita Baptist. With a victory on Saturday, Maxfield can tie the two men for whom HSU’s stadium is named, Carpenter and Jimmy Haygood, for most victories over OBU all-time (8).
– Ouachita Baptist’s head coach is Todd Knight, who is in his 23rd year and 22nd season at OBU and holds a record of 131-98 with the Tigers. Knight has been named Central Region Coach of the Year three times in 2014, 2018 and 2019. Under his watch, the Tigers have amassed 13-straight winning seasons and won five GAC titles.
THE LAST MEETING
– Henderson State took the lead with 1:44 remaining in the 93rd Battle of the Ravine, but No. 5 Ouachita Baptist engineered a 74-yard drive, which was capped by a score with 30 seconds to play, to win it 24-21 at Cliff Harris Stadium and claim the 2019 GAC crown outright.
– The Reddies got off to a dream start and led 14-0 after the opening quarter, but the Tigers weathered the tide and eventually tied the game up 14-14 on their first possession of the second half. OBU took a 17-14 lead into the fourth, but HSU got a touchdown run from Querale Hall to go in front 21-17 with 1:44 left in the game.
– Needing a score on their final possession, Ouachita hit two big plays — a 32-yard lob from Brayden Brazeal to Justin Dean and a 20-yard pass from Brazeal to Keemontre McKnight — to move down to the field and punch in the winning score with 30 seconds left.
THE BATTLE OF THE RAVINE QUICK FACTS
– Billed as “The Shortest Road Trip in College Football” the Battle of the Ravine was first played in 1895 when Ouachita College defeated Arkadelphia Methodist College 8-0 on Thanksgiving Day. Every year, the visiting team walks across U.S. Highway 67 to their rival’s stadium. The two stadiums are exactly 3696 feet, or 0.7 miles, from one another according to Google Maps. The Battle of the Ravine is tied for the oldest rivalry in all of NCAA DII football.
– The game was traditionally played on Thanksgiving but in 1951 the series was discontinued after Henderson won 54-0 and the pranks between the two schools got out of hand. The rivalry resumed in 1963 and continued uninterrupted until 1993 when Henderson made its jump from NAIA to NCAA DII. When OBU did the same in 1996, play resumed once more. Since then, the game has been played every year other than in 2004 and 2005, when both schools were in the Gulf South and rotated off of the other’s schedule, and in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Of the 93 previous meetings, the game has been decided by a touchdown or less 43 times. The longest winning streak by either team is held by HSU, who won seven-straight from 1988 to 1998. The largest margin of victory for the Reddies was 62-0 in 1932. Ouachita’s largest margin of victory came in 1919 when they won 66-0. The series is tied 11-11 in the NCAA DII era. Henderson has out-scored Ouachita all-time 1621-1512.
– Since the formation of the GAC in 2011, the Battle of the Ravine has either featured the conference champion, or had the potential to crown the conference champion, nine times including this Saturday. The winner of the Battle of the Ravine has gone to the NCAA DII playoffs in eight of the last nine seasons.
– Tailgating events on the Henderson State campus will begin on Saturday morning. Reddie Club donors and fans are invited to a pregame tailgate meal at the red and white tents in front of the Duke Wells Center from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
– The menu has a variety of options, including both taco and barbecue stations, caesar salads, fresh fruit, a dessert bar featuring flaming donuts and toppings, bottled water and sodas. All HSU fans are invited to the pregame tailgate meal. There will be no cost for Reddie Club donors who bring their 2021 credit card-style season seat pass to identify themselves. One meal per Reddie Club season seat pass. For non-Reddie Club members, the cost of the meal is $10 per person.
– The No. 16 Reddies will begin the walk across the street into Cliff Harris Stadium at approximately 11:30 a.m. Feaster Trail, which encompasses both the HSU and OBU campuses, now runs under Highway 67 for fans who would like to cross the street without having to avoid traffic.
– A free shuttle service for Reddie fans will begin running at 11 a.m. and continue until kickoff. The bus will run again following the game for an hour. CADC SCAT busses will pick up fans near the Reddie Club parking lot in front of Carpenter-Haygood Stadium and Ruggles Field, the Formby Center/Wells lot and also at the corner of 12th and Wilson Streets on the main campus, allowing fans to utilize the parking lots near Smith Hall and other lots around main campus. The shuttle will drop fans off at the corner of MH Russell Drive and Highway 67 adjacent to Cliff Harris Stadium.
– A ticket table will be located under the tailgate tents at the front of the Duke Wells Center from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on game day. Tickets are $8 each and all tickets are general admission. Children four years of age and under will be admitted free. Cash or check only will be accepted on game day. Checks should be made out to Ouachita Baptist University.
– Current Henderson students will be admitted free to the game with a valid ID.
– General admission tickets will also be sold throughout the week in the Henderson State Athletics office in the Duke Wells Center from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Friday. Cash or check only will be accepted. No phone orders will be taken.
– In addition, the ticket window at Cliff Harris Stadium will be open at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13 for those who wish to purchase tickets on game day. Customers can pay with cash, credit card or debit card.
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.