The name R.J. Vanhook may leave a sour taste in some Northeastern State football fans mouths. Vanhook was the man who carried the ball into the end zone with :48 left in the fourth quarter last season to propel the Wonder Boys of Arkansas Tech to a 35-32 win over the Redmen in the first game of the season last year.

Now for the rematch.

The run by Vanhook was just one of 65 rushing yard ATU was able to muster against the Redmen in the opener. However, they had a total passing yards of 299. If the Redmen are to win this week, they will have to stop the Wonder Boys running and passing games, but maybe more import the Redmen will need to hold on to the ball.

In last year’s game, the Redmen turned over the ball four times on fumbles. Two of those fumbles resulted in a touchdown on the next drive for ATU.

“The last couple of times we have played Arkansas Tech we have turned the ball over. We just can’t do that,” said NSU Head Coach John Horner. “To be successful we have to have stable drives and can not turn over the ball.”

With the game just one day away, Horner is still reluctant to name a starting quarterback, or any other position for that matter. He says the team has a good balance of players, and they are still working hard to solidify positions. However, he did say that he will rotate junior Erik Hatchett and redshirt freshman Marquise Dansby at the tailback position.

Dansby, who is a native of Waxahachie, Texas, was a redshirt last year, but had a good spring and will most likely see a bit of playing time. Hatchett, a native of Willis, Texas, is a junior this season. They both are looking to replace Brandon Ishem, the Redmen’s 1000-plus rusher who graduated last spring.

The Redmen bring back a experienced defense this season, with seven returning players, but to Horner a job is never given, it must be earned.

“We have some experience on defense, but I don’t think of it that way,” said Horner. “We have good athletes and everyone will have to earn their spot. However, we do have a lot of returning starters and that is nice.”

Kevin Christian returns to the Redmen lineup as linebacker. The 6-1, 240 senior led the Redmen defense with 19 solo tackles, 55 assists and broke up five passes last season. Also returning to NSU this season is defensive back Broderick Mondy. Mondy led the Redmen in solo tackles with 31 last season. He also had 40 assisted tackles along with an interception and two fumble recoveries.

The concern for the Redmen going into the first game is the unknown.

“They (ATU) have changed their type of offense. Looking at their depth chart, they will be going to a more spread type offense this season,” said Horner.

The Wonder Boys also have an experienced team. ATU touts 10 upperclassmen on their depth chart on offense and another 14 on defense. But the Wonder Boys do show some weakness in corner back position with Delvin Ellis a sophomore and Marcus Arnold a redshirt freshman.

The Wonder Boys, who have been a passing team in the past, threw for an average of 231.9 per game compared to only 141.7 yards of rushing. However, on defense ATU has not given up much either way. The opposing teams passed for 198.6 yards a game, while rushing for 182.8. The Redmen will certainly have their hands full as the season begins.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Cyclone Stadium in Russellville, Ark.


Trending Video