Harding WR finds his niche

Published 8 December 2017

Wide receivers in Harding's offense do not lead a glamorous life.

The Bisons have run 928 offensive plays during the 2017 season and are throwing the ball 8.9 percent of the time. That percentage has been even lower (6.1 percent) in Harding's three NCAA Division II playoff games.

NCAA Division II

semifinals

Harding at Texas A&M-Commerce

WHEN 2:30 p.m. Central, Saturday

SITE Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium, Commerce, Texas

COACHES Paul Simmons 11-3 in first season at Harding and overall; Colby Carthel 47-15 in five seasons at A&M-Commerce and overall.

RADIO KVHU-FM, 95.3, Searcy

In the Bisons' Triple-Option attack, the team's offensive stars are linemen and blocking.

"In our offense, we call wide receivers 'wide tackles," Harding Coach Paul Simmons said.

"Our coaches really preach selflessness," Harding junior Kohl Blickenstaff said. "It's not what I expected coming out of high school, but it's fun blocking for all of our [running backs]. It's cool and I've grown to love it."

Blickenstaff's blocking ability has helped the Bisons advance to the NCAA Division II national semifinals. Harding plays at Texas A&M-Commerce on Saturday.

As a senior at Harding Academy in 2012, Blickenstaff caught 46 passes for 586 yards and 6 TDs. In three years at Harding University, Blickenstaff has caught one pass.

"We've probably thrown two or three passes to him the entire time he's been here," Simmons said.

Receptions, however, are not the measuring stick Harding uses for success.

"We name MVPs for offense, defense and special teams every week," Simmons said. "A couple of weeks ago Kohl was our offensive player of the week and he didn't touch the ball."

Blickenstaff's one college catch was a big one. Midway through the third quarter of the Bisons' 34-24 victory over Ashland (Ohio), Blickenstaff hauled in a pass from quarterback Terrence Dingle and turned it into a 76-yard gain.

"Being that I had never caught a pass before, I doubt [Ashland] was expecting it," Blickenstaff said. "We had been pounding inside all day and the safeties were crowding the line. I took four steps and I was wide open."

Blickenstaff caught the ball at midfield and was brought down at the Ashland 1.

"He was probably asking himself, 'how did I not get in?' " Simmons said.

"After the play was over, I was thinking 'why didn't I dive at the three?' " Blickenstaff said. "So I was a little disappointed that I didn't score. That's how it goes sometimes."

The Bisons scored on the next play to take a 24-7 advantage.

Blocking is not Blickenstaff's lone duty. He is also the holder for kicking team.

"Kohl has bailed us out plenty of times by handling a bad snap," Simmons said. "His play has just been off the charts."

Blickenstaff said he was Harding Academy's part-time holder his senior year. When an opportunity presented itself during his freshman season at Harding University, he took advantage of it.

"I wanted to be on our travel roster any way possible," Blickenstaff said.

Blickenstaff is highly complimentary of deep snapper Jim Cain and kicker Tristan Parsley, who has hit 15 of 21 field-goal attempts and 57 of 58 extra-point attempts this season.

"Tristan is awesome," Blickenstaff said. "He's hit some pressure-packed field goals this year. He's super calm and one of the most humble guys I know."

Parsley connected on a 20-yard field goal as time expired in last week's 16-14 victory at Ferris State.

Simmons said there was a momentarily delay before Parsley was able to boot the ball through. The Harding coach was concerned some of his players were getting anxious before the Bisons were allowed to snap the ball.

Harding had also called three timeouts in the final :06, adding to the suspense.

"It was definitely a high-pressure moment," Blickenstaff said. "We had run almost seven minutes off the clock to set up the kick. Tristan was calm through it all."

Simmons said Blickenstaff was calm as well.

"Kohl has the accountability, the passion to play the game and be a great teammate," Simmons said. "He knows how to make the guys around him better players."

Sports on 12/07/2017