Southern Arkansas makes final push for playoff spot

Updated: October 24, 2003, 1:24 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Southern Arkansas has played one of the toughest schedules in the Gulf South Conference through seven games.

Four of those games were against teams ranked in the NCAA Division II's Top 25. The Muleriders (5-2, 3-2 Gulf South) split those games thanks to a 44-36 victory over Delta State last week.

That win put Southern Arkansas back in the Division II poll at No. 21, but the team is No. 7 in the South Region rankings. That poll determines who makes the Division II playoffs, with the top four teams advancing.

"This gives us momentum going into the last part of the season," said cornerback and kick returner Jordan Babineaux, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the win over Delta State. "We still feel like we have a chance to be in contention for a playoff spot. If we can win out and take care of the rest of the schedule one week at a time, hopefully we can be in contention for the national playoff race."

The ranked opponents are done, but the Muleriders start a four-game stretch against in-state rivals with homecoming against Ouachita Baptist on Saturday.

In other Gulf South action: Henderson State (4-3, 3-2) will try to hand Delta State (5-2, 3-2) another loss; Harding (4-2, 3-2) heads to Arkansas-Monticello (2-5, 1-4) looking to stay near the top of the standings; Arkansas Tech (3-4, 2-3) has a long trip to West Georgia (3-4, 2-3); and Central Arkansas (2-5, 0-5) tries to break its winless streak at No. 4 North Alabama (7-0, 5-0).

Arkansas-Pine Bluff has the week off as it prepares to play its final three games on the road.

The SAU-OBU rivalry is a hot one, especially for coaches Steve Quinn and Todd Knight, former college teammates at OBU. Last year, the Muleriders took a 29-28-2 series lead with a 50-47 victory in four overtimes.

"I've know coach Knight ever since we were in college together and they're a well-coached team," said Quinn, who beat Knight's OBU team 10-3 in his first year at SAU in 2001. "He knows how to get the ball into his playmakers' hands."

Senior running back MontoyaBrown, the Gulf South's leading rusher, is OBU's best playmaker.Brown, who had a season-high 171 yards last week in a 48-21 victory over UAM, averages 113.5 yards per game and he's the only back over 100.

Backup Josh Holcomb gives the Tigers another speed threat out of the backfield. The sophomore has 276 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Chris Lammers has played well in his first year as a starter, completing 65.1 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.

Henderson State is two plays from being undefeated in Gulf South play this year.

The Reddies fumbled at the West Georgia 3 late in a 38-35 loss on Sept. 27. Harding blocked two extra points in a 34-33 win last week and then Marco Cole blocked a 40-yard field goal with 1 second remaining to seal the win.

Henderson State will try to come back from that heartbreaking loss in its homecoming game against Delta State.

The game will be a contrast in styles. The Statesmen lead the nation in passing at 356.6 yards per game, while the Reddies have the nation's top running game in the league at 341.7 yards per game.

Harding had the same expectations as Southern Arkansas at the start of the season. While both are tied at 3-2 in league play, the Bisons don't have the same quality wins. After facing the Boll Weevils, Harding will get a chance for those with back-to-back games against Delta State and SAU.

UAM will attack Harding with the second-best passing game in the league. Quarterback Cory Allred averages 303.6 yards passing per game and he's also a threat to run with 416 yards on the ground.

Allred leads the league with 363 yards of total offense per game.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index