By COURTLIN HAYGARTH | HSU Sports Network
ARKADELPHIA — After an historic Saturday that saw head coach Scott Maxfield become the all-time winningest head coach in Henderson State history, Maxfield and the No. 24 Reddies will look to add another win to the list when they head to Magnolia, Arkansas to face the Southern Arkansas Muleriders at 6 p.m.
STORYLINES: SETTING THE SCENE
No. 24 Henderson will be making the trip south to Magnolia for the first time since 2012, when HSU defeated SAU 44-36. The previous three contests against the Muleriders away from Carpenter-Haygood Stadium were played in El Dorado, Arkansas at Memorial Stadium as part of the Murphy USA Classic.
With play between the two programs beginning in 1914, the Reddies lead the all-time series over Southern Arkansas, 47-35-1. The Muleriders have not beaten HSU in Magnolia since 2005 but are 19-15-1 all-time when facing Henderson in Magnolia.
Saturday, Southern Arkansas will look to get back to .500 on the year rather than fall to 1-4. The Muleriders have not lost four of their first five games to open a season since 2011. On the flip side, Henderson is trying to start a year 4-0 for the second straight season and the sixth time since the formation of the GAC in 2011.
REDDIES REPORT: OFFENSE
Henderson’s offense tallied 498 total yards this past Saturday against Arkansas-Monticello, with 310 of them coming from the right arm of quarterback Andrew Edwards. In his two career starts, Edwards has thrown for 533 yards and seven touchdowns, while also running for 48 yards and two scores. Edwards is second in the GAC with 266.5 yards per game while boasting a league-high 223.5 passing efficiency.
Running back Korien Burrell, while being held out of the endzone for the first time this season against the Boll Weevils, did see his second straight game of over 100 rushing yards. Burrell leads the HSU rushing attack with 277 yards and has yet to be tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Burrell is sixth in the GAC with 92.3 yards per game.
Wide receiver Xavier Malone makes up the triple threat on offense for the Reddies as the senior from Mound Bayou, Mississippi is second in the conference 121.3 yards per game and is tied for the most touchdown receptions of any GAC receiver with four. Malone and Edwards have been in sync on the deep ball so far, with the star wideout registering 28 yards per reception.
As an entire unit, Henderson is third in the league in total offense, averaging 464 yards per game and second with 39.3 points per game. Across the country, HSU is tied for 13th in total offense and 16th in scoring offense.
One of the most experienced units for the Reddies has been showing out this season, enabling HSU’s offense to be as successful as it has been. Henderson quarterbacks have only been sacked three times this season as the offensive line is tied for 28th in the nation with allowing just one sack per game.
REDDIES REPORT: DEFENSE – SPECIAL TEAMS
Henderson St.’s defensive front is off to a record start, having recording the second most sacks of any team in the country with 16 after the Reddies recorded just 16 all of last season. On a per-game basis, HSU is third with 5.33 sacks per game.
Since sacks were counted as an official statistic, 16 sacks through three games is the most in program history. Henderson is currently on pace for an absurd 58 sacks, which would shatter the previous single-season team sack record of 34 set back in 2014.
Shaq’ke Robinson and Gary Lewis have been an absolute terror for opposing backfields as they have combined for seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Dylan Ndambuki is third on the team in both categories with two sacks and three tackles for loss. As an entire team, HSU has registered 31 tackles for loss for 118 yards.
The Reddies are third in the GAC in scoring defense (22.3) and rushing defense (130 yard per game). A lights-defensive front has made up for a struggling secondary three games into the season as HSU is 11th in the conference after allowing 288.3 passing yards per game.
Kicker Tristan Heaton tied an HSU record with his 49-yard field goal midway through the second quarter against UAM this past Saturday. Heaton is 2-for-2 on field goals this year and has punted 10 times this year for an average distance of 39.3 yards per boot, including a long of 53 yards and two that have fallen inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.
Wide receiver Braden Boykin has returned six kickoffs this year for 121 yards, seeing an average return of just over 20 yards. Freshman Jody Easter has taken two kicks back for 72 yards, including a long of 40 at Northwestern Oklahoma State. Boykin has been the sole punt returner for the Reddies this season, seeing 10 yards on just three returns.
SCOUTING SOUTHERN ARKANSAS
The Muleriders started off the year firing on offense as they put up 62 points on Northwestern Oklahoma State in their season-opener, doubling up the Rangers, 62-31. Since then, SAU is 0-2 with losses at Southwestern Oklahoma St. and at No. 7 Harding. Southern Arkansas’ two losses have come on the road while its one win came at home.
The majority of the offense comes from the ground game for SAU as they have 813 rushing yards compared to 527 passing yards. Similarly to how Arkansas-Monticello utilized the running game, running back Jariq Scales and quarterback OB Jones make up 477 of the team’s 813 rushing yards. Against NWOSU, Scales ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones, a junior out of Tatum, Texas, has recorded 655 yards of total offense through three games, throwing for 420 and rushing for 235. Through the air, Jones is 29-of-55 with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Jones’ top target, wide receiver Micah Small, has been the recipient of two of those scores while tallying 120 yards on six catches himself.
Among the conference leaders, SAU is third in rushing offense with 271 yards per game, but is tenth in passing offense (175.7 ypg). Thanks to their 60+ point outburst in their opener, the Muleriders are sixth in the GAC with 33 points per game and are fifth in total offense at 446.7 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior transfer Jacob Berry out of Trinity Valley Community College has been everywhere for the Muleriders, accumulating a team-high 24 total tackles, which is tied for the third most in the league. Teammate Del Kristoffer Wade comes up just behind Berry with 18 tackles as both guys have 11 solo take downs.
The defensive line for SAU is bolstered by graduate student Prince Udenze and redshirt sophomore Tre’von Letts, who have combined for five tackles for loss, with Letts recording half a sack. Defensive linemen Damon LeGrande and Garrett Roberts lead the team with one sack each.
Whereas running the ball is what makes the offense go, Southern Arkansas’ pass defense is what SAU has hung its hat on through the early going. The Muleriders have allowed just 180 passing yards per game for fourth in the conference compared to 254.7 rushing yards per game for ninth in the GAC.
In the kicking game, graduate student Austin Wilkerson is a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals this season, with his long of the year of 36 yards coming last week against Harding. Wilkerson also handles the kickoff duties for SAU, sending three of his 16 kicks for touchbacks. Punter Andrew Schreiner has 12 punts on the season with two of them going for 50+ yards.
THE COACHING MATCHUP
Henderson St. head coach Scott Maxfield made history this past Saturday, becoming the all-time winningest coach in HSU history after reaching his 120th career victory. Maxfield will look to extend his lead on the rest of the Reddies’ coaching lineage with his 121st victory Saturday. During his time at the helm of the program, Maxfield is 12-3 against SAU.
Southern Arkansas head coach Brad Smiley became the 21st head coach of the Mulerider football program in December of 2021. Smiley comes to SAU with 27 years of offensive coaching experience at the NCAA Division I, NCAA FCS and NJCAA levels. Most recently, Smiley was at FCS Northwestern State, where he was the Demons’ offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
THE LAST MEETING
When Southern Arkansas came into Carpenter-Haygood Stadium last season, the game finished as an instant classic. After the Muleriders raced out to a 28-0 lead after the first quarter, the Reddies stormed back, scoring 35 points in the second quarter, including 28 in the final 4:30 of the half, to see an unprecedented 35-28 lead at the break. Henderson would hold on the rest of the way for the 56-49 victory.
After SAU quickly tied the game in the third quarter, a rushing touchdown from HSU put the home team back up by seven, 42-35. With the Muleriders threatening deep into Reddie territory again on the ensuing series, former-HSU linebacker Jake Chatman made the play of his career, taking an interception back 100 yards in the final seconds of the third quarter to establish a 14-point lead.
Current-Reddies Xavier Malone and Cameron Thomas were the two players of the game on either sides of the ball. Malone finished with four receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown while Thomas led the team with nine tackles, eight of which were solo, and two second-quarter interceptions, along with one pass break-up.
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.
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