Southern Arkansas is looking to pull an upset as the Muleriders travel to Arkadelphia to face unbeaten and nationally-ranked Henderson State Saturday at 1 p.m. for the 77th meetings between the schools in a Great American Conference contest at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium.
Henderson is ranked No. 4 in the latest American Football Coaches Association Top 25 poll and is the highest the Reddies have been in the poll since joining the NCAA Division II level in 1993.
The Muleriders have played 26 games against nationally-ranked opponents since 2003, but has only won one of those games. Against Top 5 teams, SAU is 0-13.
Last season, the Reddies escaped Wilkins Stadium with a 44-36 win.
Live stats and coverage of the game can be seen at hsusports.com.
The series between Henderson State and Southern Arkansas dates back to 1915 and the Reddies lead the series 41-33-2 and has won the last six meetings.
Southern Arkansas is coming off a 31-23 win last week against Ouachita Baptist. SAU (5-3 overall and GAC) ranks third in the league in scoring (36.4 ppg), fourth in offense (440.6 ypg) and second in total defense (339.4 ypg).
The Muleriders are led by All-GAC quarterback Tyler Sykora, who has completed 145 of 291 passes for 2,272 yards this season. Mark Johnson, who now has several school records, is one of the top running backs in the GAC and is averaging 92.2 yards.
SAU is second in the GAC passing defense, giving up an average of just 193 yards through the air. Mark Spaight leads the Muleriders with 58 total tackles.
Henderson State has the nation’s top scoring offense (53.1 ppg) and fourth-best offense (551.1 ypg). The Reddies rank first in the GAC and in the Top 25 DII in scoring defense and total defense. Henderson is limiting opponents to just 19.1 points per game, and 316.2 yards on offense.
The Reddies are led by quarterback and Harlon Hill candidate Kevin Rodgers, who has thrown for 3,306 yards and 17 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. His 36.7 ypg ranks him third in DII.
Darius Davis has caught 49 passes for 1,016 yards and nine touchdowns.
The ground game is championed by Daniel McCoy and Ryan McDonald. McDonald leads the team with 528 yards on 86 carries. McCoy has 81 totes for 391 yards.
Starting linebacker Keanton Stigger leads the team with 10 touchdowns, all in short-yardage situations. He’s also the team leader on defense with 98 tackles this season.
Last season, Southern Arkansas gave itself a chance at the end. The Muleriders trailed 44-33 with 31 seconds and elected to kick a 27-yard field goal on fourth and goal, and trying for the onside kick.
The plan worked, as SAU recovered the kick, but a penalty redrew attempt and the Reddies recovered the ball to run out the clock.
Both teams combined for 1,073 yards on offense with just 144 yards on the ground for both teams. Quarterbacks Kevin Rodgers (Henderson State) and Sykora (Southern Arkansas) provided the duel as Rodgers completed 32 of 46 passes for 518 yards and three scores. Skykora had a 33-of-55 performance for 411 yards and three touchdowns.
The Reddies had just one turnover (a fumble), while SAU lost one fumble and an interception. Both teams combined for 24 penalties for 242 yards. Southern Arkansas was flagged 15 times for 137 yards.