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Game Notes: Bisons vs. Southern Nazarene

Harding Bisons vs. Southern Nazarene Crimson Storm

First Security Stadium, Searcy, Saturday, 6 p.m.

Media: HardingSports.com (for live stats, audio and video)

ON TAP: Harding will play its second straight home game against an Oklahoma opponent as part of the Harding’s Family Week festivities. Harding did not play last week after defeating Northwestern Oklahoma 69-0 in Searcy on Sept. 14. The Bisons (1-1, 1-1 GAC) set a school record with 692 total yards in the game. Southern Nazarene (0-3, 0-3) is coming off a 49-7 home loss to Arkansas Tech last Saturday in Bethany, Okla. Harding and Southern Nazarene are meeting for only the second time. The Bisons won the first meeting 42-13 last season in Bethany, rushing for 441 yards and holding possession for more than 39 minutes.

NORTHWESTERN OKLA. LEFTOVERS: Harding scored 69 points, the fourth-most ever by a Bison team. It was the second-largest shutout, behind only a 75-0 blanking of Shepherd Tech in 2011.

• The shutout was the first for the Bisons in a Great American Conference game.

• Harding set school records in the game for total offense (692 yards) and average yards per play (10.6) and tied the school record for touchdowns in a game (10).

• Junior Jacob Moore made his second career start at quarterback in place of injured starter Keenan Kellett. Moore scored two rushing touchdowns and completed 4-of-5 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown.

• HU rushed for 454 yards, the sixth-most in a single game. Romo Westbrook rushed for 109 yards on eight carries, his second career 100-yard game. The Bisons used 15 different rushers, averaged 8.1 yards per rush, and scored eight rushing touchdowns.

• Harding passed for 238 yards, the second most since moving to the flexbone in 2010. The Bisons passed for 254 in 2010 at Ouachita Baptist.

• Senior Alex Rachal had three receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard game for Rachal and the first by a Bison since Donatella Luckett’s 136-yard game at North Alabama in 2012.

• The Bisons used 20 different offensive linemen in the game, and 19 of them were on the field for at least one touchdown.

ABOUT THE CRIMSON STORM: Southern Nazarene is a provisional member of the GAC and is located in

Bethany, Okla.

• Southern Nazarene has opened the season with three consecutive losses, including a 49-7 home loss to Arkansas Tech last Saturday. The Crimson Storm opened the season with an 82-10 road loss to Henderson State and followed that with a 49-24 home loss to Ouachita Baptist.

• Chris Hunter leads SNU in rushing. In fact, he has had 61 of the Crimson Storm’s 86 rushes (71%), 218 of the team’s 237 rushing yards (92%), and all three of the team’s rushing touchdowns.

• QB Dylan Terry ranks eighth in the GAC with 192.3 passing yards per game. He has completed 56.8 percent of his passes but is second in the GAC with five interceptions.

• SNU has six receivers with five or more receptions, led by Ryan Mischler with 18 receptions for 159 yards and one of the team’s two receiving touchdowns.

• Junior linebacker Michael Hicks ranks third in the GAC with 8.3 tackles per game.

PRESEASON GAC POLL: Harding was picked to finish third of 11 teams in the GAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Southern Nazarene was not eligible for the poll as a provisional member of the GAC. Henderson State was the preseason favorite.

LAST MEETING: Harding rushed for 441 yards and gained 544 total yards in a 42-13 victory over Southern Nazarene last season on Sept. 22 in Bethany. Harding’s defense limited Southern Nazarene to only 144 total yards, just 58 rushing yards, and a mere seven first downs. Eighty of SNU’s 144 yards came on its only scoring drive. HU fullbacks D’Nico Jackson-Best (103 yards) and Romo Westbrook (96 yards) had outstanding games. Harding ran 90 plays to only 52 for Southern Nazarene and held possession for 39 minutes, 8 seconds.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

• Harding enters the Southern Nazarene game ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II in two statistical categories. The Bisons are averaging a Division II-best 28.58 yards passing yards per completion. Harding is also tops in the nation with only six tackles-for-loss allowed.

• Harding’s offense also ranks in the top 10 in Division II in: Rushing Offense (5th, 343.0), 3rd Down Conversion Pct. (6th, 54.5), Team Passing Efficiency (7th, 189.22), and Scoring Offense (9th, 46.0).

• Harding ranked fourth in NCAA Division II last season in rushing yards per game (320.55). It was the third consecutive season that the Bisons have finished in the top five nationally. The Bisons had 34 rushing touchdowns and had 12 different players score on the ground. Harding is currently fifth in 2013 in rushing yards per game (343.0).

• Harding’s leading returning rusher is junior Romo Westbrook, who rushed for 655 yards on 110 carries and five touchdowns. Westbrook was an honorable mention All-American last season and was 1st Team All-Central Region and All-GAC. Westbrook rushed for 109 yards on eight carries against Northwestern Oklahoma and leads the Bisons with 147 rushing yards on 17 carries this season.

• Harding returns seven of its top eight rushers from last season, losing only quarterback Kelvin Martin.

• Harding has two running backs that have 100-yard rushing games on their career resumes. D’Nico Jackson-Best rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries last season vs. Southern Nazarene. Romo Westbrook has two career 100-yard games: 181 vs. Arkansas Tech, 2012 & 109 vs. Northwestern Okla., 2013.

• Harding’s slot backs (pitch-men) are averaging 9.9 yards per carry, with 198 yards on 20 carries.

• The Bisons’ top returning wide receiver is junior Donatella Luckett. Last season, Luckett earned 2nd Team All-GAC honors. He had 28 receptions for 453 yards and seven touchdowns and carried nine times for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Luckett leads Harding with 181 all-purpose yards in 2013, including 109 receiving yards.

• Harding has five quarterbacks on its active roster. Jacob Moore became the first of those five to start a game with his start at Southwestern Oklahoma. Keenan Kellett is expected to make his first start against Southern Nazarene.

• The Bisons’ starters on the offensive line have a combined 86 career starts. Leading the way is senior left tackle Jeremiah Vivio (33), followed by Dallon Hudson (26), Mike Thompson (13), Mike Gallaway (9), and Patrick Bingham (5).

DEFENSIVE NOTES

• For the second time in the last three seasons, Harding returns only one starter on defense. Senior linebacker Erik Ragdale started nine games last season and is Harding’s leading returning tackler. He had 37 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Ragsdale is fourth on the team this season with 11 tackles and Harding’s only interception.

• Last season, Harding led the GAC in scoring defense (17.3), total defense (283.5) and red-zone defense (54.8). The Bisons ranked sixth in Division II in total defense and 10th in rushing defense and scoring defense. Through two games, Harding leads the conference in scoring defense (13.5), total defense (278.5), and passing defense (167.0).

• Philip Mion and Ashtun Williams are tied for the team lead with 14 tackles. Daniel Riley leads the team with 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

• Harding’s opponents have not returned a punt in the team’s first two games.

• Harding returns all of its specialists from last season. Junior kicker John Gay is a preseason All-America honoree after making 10-of-14 field goals and 43-of-43 extra points in 2012. Gay has made 1-of-2 field goals and 11-of-13 extra points through two games.

• Senior punter Nathan Kadlecek ranked third in the GAC last season with 38.7 yards per punt, the fifth-best average in program history. He has only had to punt four times this season and has a 37.5-yard average.

• Sophomore Madison Firmin returns as the long snapper, and senior Alex Finley is the holder.

• Jordan Cantrell leads Harding with three special teams tackles, all on kickoffs.

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