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College football: Week 4

We were almost there.

Having gone 13-0 during the first two weeks of the college football season, we were on the verge of keeping a perfect record intact after three weeks of predictions.

Arkansas Tech held a 23-7 lead at Southwestern Oklahoma in the fourth quarter, and we appeared on our way to being 9-0 for the week. Then, the Wonder Boys melted down. The winning points for Southwestern came on a 63-yard interception return.

So it goes.

Meanwhile, Arkansas was the most pleasant surprise of the week. We had picked the Hogs to win but certainly not by a margin of 21 points.

It was just like the old Southwest Conference days when Arkansas would dominate the Red Raiders. Arkansas is now 16-2 in games played at Lubbock, losing only in 1966 and 1991. The Razorbacks are 29-7 overall against Tech.

The highlights of Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28 were many. Some of those highlights were:

— Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combining for 357 yards and six touchdowns rushing. Collins had 212 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Williams had 145 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.

— Bret Bielema getting his first road victory as the head coach at Arkansas.

— Arkansas getting its first nonconference road victory since the 38-28 win at Texas in 2003.

— Arkansas dominating in time of possession, 40:39 to 19:21. That’s amazing.

— Williams becoming the first Hog to rush for four touchdowns in a game since Darren McFadden in 2007.

— Collins becoming the first Razorback to rush for more than 200 yards in a game since McFadden in 2007.

— The most rushing first downs (24) in a game for an Arkansas team since 1969.

Texas Tech had come into the contest with a 26-game home winning streak against nonconference foes, dating back to September 2002 when current head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the Red Raider quarterback.

Next up for the Hogs is Northern Illinois in Fayetteville on Saturday night.

So we were 8-1 on the week, making the record 21-1 for the season.

On to the picks for Week 4:

Arkansas 45, Northern Illinois 30 — This is a good Northern Illinois team. It will force the Razorbacks to work hard for a home victory. Northern Illinois has the winningest program in Illinois and in the Mid-American Conference during the past decade. The Huskies have won four consecutive MAC West titles and in 2013 made a sixth consecutive bowl appearance, which is a MAC record. NIU leads the country with 17 consecutive road victories in games played at an opponent’s home stadium. That includes wins at Northwestern, Iowa and Purdue. The Huskies’ 49 wins during the past four years ranks second among FBS teams, trailing only Oregon and leading Boise State and LSU (47 each). Northern Illinois is 3-0 with wins of 55-3 over Presbyterian, 23-15 over Northwestern and 48-34 over UNLV. All of that said, no SEC team should lose at home to a MAC team. The Huskies are 1-9 against SEC foes. Still, let’s not forget that Saturday will mark the 11th anniversary of the day Northern Illinois went to Tuscaloosa and defeated Alabama, 19-16.

Arkansas State 35, Utah State 33 — The Red Wolves fell 41-20 at Miami last Saturday and are 1-2 under new head coach Blake Anderson. Fredi Knighten was 22 of 40 passing for ASU for 217 yards. He ran for one touchdown and caught a 19-yard pass off a double reverse for a second touchdown. Utah State rolls into Jonesboro on Saturday with a 2-1 record. The Aggies lost to Tennessee in Knoxville by a score of 38-7 to open the season (Arkansas State fell 34-19 in Knoxville a week later) and have since posted victories of 40-20 over Idaho State and 36-24 over Wake Forest. These two teams appear evenly matched. It should be a close game. We’ll give the slight advantage to the Red Wolves since the game is in Jonesboro.

Missouri State 29, UCA 24 — The Bears fell to 1-2 with a 43-33 loss at Montana State, the team Arkansas State had defeated in its season opener. Bear quarterback Taylor Reed out of El Dorado started the game for UCA but left in the second quarter with a concussion. Ryan Howard finished the contest at quarterback. He was 39 of 48 passing for 333 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Missouri State opened the season with a 34-27 victory over Northwestern State of Louisiana, lost 40-23 at Oklahoma State and them blitzed North Dakota by a score of 38-0. Missouri State is making its first trip to Conway since 2006. The Bears from Missouri are ranked 26th in this week’s FCS coaches’ poll.

Alabama State 23, UAPB 17 — The Golden Lions will receive national television exposure tonight (Thursday) on ESPU as they travel to Alabama State, which comes into the contest with a 2-1 record. Alabama State opened the season with a 51-20 loss to Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, on the same day UAPB was in San Marcos losing by a score of 65-0 to Texas State. The quality of football in the SWAC seems to decline with each passing year. The Golden Lions returned home a week later to defeat tiny Concordia College of Selma, Ala., and have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Alabama State has come back with victories of 27-21 over Tennessee State and 47-22 over Mississippi Valley State. This will mark the third consecutive home game for Alabama State at its new stadium in Montgomery.

Henderson 50, Southeastern Oklahoma 22 — Like UAPB, Henderson will receive national television exposure tonight. The Reddies are on the CBS Sports Network for a Great American Conference game against Southeastern Oklahoma at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia. Last Saturday, Henderson won its 25th consecutive regular-season game by going to south Louisiana and defeating the Nicholls State team that the Razorbacks had played a week earlier in Fayetteville. The Reddies’ 27-10 victory was the third time in school history that Henderson has beaten an FCS foe. The Reddies are still No. 7 nationally in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II poll. Senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 23 of 35 passing for 169 yards against Nicholls. He needs just 106 yards passing tonight to break the state’s career passing yardage mark of 10,758 yards set by Arkansas State’s Ryan Aplin from 2009-12.

Ouachita 32, East Central Oklahoma 21 — Ouachita plays for a second consecutive Saturday in its sleek new Cliff Harris Stadium in what looks to be the best GAC game of the week. The Tigers opened the stadium and their season with a 28-7 win over Southern Nazarene. Auburn transfer Kiehl Frazier was 19 of 30 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns as Ouachita won its season opener for an eighth consecutive season. East Central is 2-0 with wins of 38-34 over UAM and 47-40 over Southern Arkansas. East Central’s Will Bond is a talented quarterback. Ouachita won by seven points last year at Ada.

UAM 40, Northwestern Oklahoma 38 — Two 0-2 teams face off Saturday night in Alva, Okla. The Boll Weevils had a 12-point lead against East Central in the opener before falling apart in the fourth quarter. Last Saturday, Southeastern Oklahoma got a field goal as time expired to beat UAM, 52-49. The two Northwestern losses have come by scores of 33-14 to Arkansas Tech and 47-7 to Harding.

Arkansas Tech 27, Southern Nazarene 10 — Tech opened the season with that win over Northwestern Oklahoma and appeared to be on the way to 2-0 last Saturday with a 23-7 lead in the fourth quarter at Southwestern Oklahoma. Southwestern came back to win, 27-23. Southern Nazarene has been outscored 100-14 by the Arkadelphia schools to open the season, losing 72-7 to Henderson and 28-7 to Ouachita.

Southwestern Oklahoma 31, Southern Arkansas 25 — The Muleriders’ first two games came down to the final minute of play. Southern Arkansas scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to beat Southeastern in the opener. Last week, East Central got a touchdown with 47 seconds left to beat the Muleriders, 47-40. Give Southwestern a slight advantage since it’s playing at home in Weatherford.

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