SHAWNEE - Oklahoma Baptist begins its seventh season of varsity football, all coming under Head Coach Chris Jensen, on Saturday afternoon as they welcome in the Henderson State Reddies at 6:00 p.m. CT at Crain Stadium at the Hurt Complex. The game will be featured on OBUBison.com with the trio of Todd Miller, John Brooks, and Scott Wanish.
Oklahoma Baptist is 2-4 in openers including 3-3 in their home openers. Last season, OBU opened the 2018 season with a thrilling 27-26 win over East Central in overtime. They followed that up with a 34-28 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State in their home opener.
Currently, Oklahoma Baptist has the longest winning streak in the GAC going into Saturday's contest. The Bison won three straight contests to close the 2018 season including wins over Southwestern Oklahoma State, Northwestern Oklahoma State, and Southern Nazarene.
Last season, Oklahoma Baptist put together its best record since joining the rank of NCAA Division II, finishing with a 5-6 record and tying for sixth place in the Great American Conference, their best finish since joining the conference. OBU "won state" a season ago, sweeping the Oklahoma teams while scoring 30 or more points in four of the five contest.
PROTECTION YOU CAN COUNT ON
Oklahoma Baptist returns 16 starters from one season ago including six on the offensive side and eight on the defensive side as well as two from special teams. The Bison had one of the best offenses in the conference in 2018 lead by quarterback Preston Haire. OBU was first in the conference in passing offense, averaging 276.5 yard per game through the air. The OBU offensive line was also outstanding in pass protection in 2018, only allowing three total sacks in 11 games played.
Redshirt senior Isaiah Mallory returns to the backfield in 2019 after missing all of 2018 due to injury. Mallory will go down as one of the greatest running backs OBU has seen since its resurgence, going 2,054 yards in three seasons to go with 20 touchdowns. Mallory averages close to five yards a carry throughout his career.
Mallory's return will set up for a fun duo as sophomore Tyler Stuever returns to the backfield for OBU. Stuever racked up 549 yards on 138 carries in 2018 to go with six touchdowns. Ruben Thompson could also see some time this season in what could be a loaded backfield for OBU in 2019.
AIR RAID HAIRE
Redshirt junior Preston Haire returns as the signal caller for OBU after a breakout 2018 season. Haire became the first OBU quarterback to pass for over 3,000 yards, earning the year with 3,034 to go with 28 touchdowns, all numbers towards the top of the GAC. Haire spread the wealth all season long, completing a pass to 17 different Bison while nine different Bison caught a touchdown pass from Haire.
REBUILDING THE LINE
Despite losing three starters on a historic offensive line that only allowed three total sacks in 2018, Oklahoma Baptist welcomes back starters Zach Blevins and Jake Foshee to their starting front. Despite being new starters, the line doesn't lack experience from last season as Mason Grosser, Zach Frazier, and JT Vongor fill out the rest of front.
Though OBU welcomes back some tremendous talent, the Bison did lose one of their top playmakers in 2018 in Cagney Robinson as he finished in the Top 5 in nearly every receiving category in the GAC. They also lose their trusted tight end in Josh Pettijohn. Senior Noah McGraw will be a big target in 2019 as he returns after hauling in 41 catches for 562 yards and six score. Jacques Henderson, who also caught five touchdowns in 2018, returns to make an impact in his senior year. Senior Dillon Smith and sophomore Joshua Cornell will be in the mix while junior Shae Garner will look to build off his season finale against SNU, where he caught a career-high 10 passes for 58 yards.
BISON PICKED NINTH
Despite a tremendous 2018 season that saw huge strides since becoming a full NCAA Division II member in 2017, the Oklahoma Baptist Bison were selected to finish ninth in the GAC after finishing tied for sixth one season ago. One factor the Bison will have to turnaround in 2019 is winning in Arkansas, where they went 0-6 a year ago. The Bison will have a five game home schedule in 2019 beginning with Henderson State followed by East Central on Sept. 28, Harding on Oct. 12, Arkansas-Monticello for Homecoming on Oct. 26, and Southwestern Oklahoma State for Senior Day on Nov. 9.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS
For the first time, Crain Family Stadium at the Hurt Complex will host a night game as OBU is set to take on the Reddies at 6 PM. It'll be the first of two nights games in 2019 with the second one coming on Sept. 28 against East Central.
It was no secret that the Oklahoma Baptist defense was young and that may have been the cause for some of their trouble in 2018. OBU welcomes a multitude of talent back to the defensive side including their top seven tacklers from a year ago.
Senior Josh Arnold led the way in tackles with 98 to go with three tackles for loss and a sack while sophomore Felipe Alvear returns at safety after recording 87 tackles to go with four tackles for loss, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. Sophomore Robert Lolofie is the top defensive lineman back as he led the way last season with 4.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries.
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE SPECIAL
Luke Wendl returns in 2019 and will be the lead kicker for OBU. Wendl was 6 of 10 last season including a career-long 45 yarder against Southeastern. Wendl was a perfect 4-for-4 from 20-29 yards. Hayden Ashley also returns to punting duties in 2019 after punting 41 times last season for a 39.2 average. Ashley boomed six 50 yards punts and had 16 of his punt land inside the 20 yard line.
SCOUTING THE REDDIES
Henderson State returns 14 starters for the 2019 season after finishing 5-6 and tying with Oklahoma Baptist for 6th place in the conference in 2018. The Reddies were selected to finish fourth in the GAC this season and are a three-time GAC champion (2012, 2013, 2015). Scott Maxfield enters his 15th season as the Reddies coach and is a two-time GAC Coach of the Year (2012, 2013). Maxfield is one win away from a milestone as he sits at 99 wins in his career.
It was the definition of an up-and-down season for Henderson State in 2018. After starting the season 1-3 with losses to Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State, Henderson won four straight games including a win over OBU to move to 5-3 on the year. However, the Reddies closed the season on a three game losing streak including a loss to arch-rival Ouachita in the "Battle of the Ravine." Two of three losses were to ranked Southern Arkansas and Ouachita.
In last season's meeting in Arkadelphia, Henderson State ran for 383 yards on the ground to rack up 599 total yards in a 56-21 win over the Bison. Querale Hall rushed 15 times for 173 yards and two scores while Logan Maragne rushed 15 times and a score. It was the first time since 2011 that two different Henderson running backs rushed for over 100 yards in a game.
It was disastrous for OBU offensively as they turned the ball over four times in the loss. Preston Haire threw for 217 yards and two scores while Noah McGraw caught four passes for 88 yards. Shane Sanders picked off two passes for the Reddies in the win.
Both Moragne and Hall return for Henderson in 2019. Moragne led the way with 707 yards on 118 carries and five scores while Hall had 461 yards on 79 carries and five scores. Richard Stammetti returns as quarterback for the Reddies after throwing for 2,459 yards and 18 scores last season. Ben Johnson is the top receiver back for HSU with 69 catches for 789 yards and five scores.
Defensively, the Reddies lose their top three tacklers. Mercardo Anderson is the top returned with 55 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and two fumble recovering while C.J. Jones also is back in the secondary as he led the team with 10 pass break ups.
Temo Martinez returns in the kicking game, going 10 of 16 last season with a long of 49 yards.