No. 14 Bears pull away from Lions in Southland opener

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CONWAY, Ark. – No. 14/16 Central Arkansas scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter on the way to a 38-6 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference opener for both teams Saturday night at Estes Stadium.

Central Arkansas (2-1, 1-0 Southland) beat the Lions (0-3, 0-1 Southland) for the third straight time and improved to 8-3 all-time versus Southeastern. The Bears racked up 473 yards of total offense on the way to the victory and sent the Lions to their first loss in a conference opener since the 2011 season.

For the third straight game, Southeastern had a different starting quarterback, as senior Micah Thomas made his first start under center for the Lions. Thomas, sophomore Lorenzo Nunez and freshman Byron Walker all saw time at quarterback for SLU, but the Lions were mostly one-dimensional and were held to 279 yards of offense.

Almost all of the Lion output was on the ground, as the SLU quarterback trio combined to complete six-of-13 passes for 84 yards. The pair of senior Eugene Bethea (14 carries, 69 yards) and junior Julius Maracalin (16 carries, 68 yards) were the top rushers for Southeastern, which finished the game with 195 yards on the ground on 56 carries.

Defensively, senior Jeff Williams II led Southeastern with 10 tackles. Senior Sione Teuhema added seven tackles for the Lions.

Central Arkansas used a balanced offensive attack to defeat the Lions. Senior Hayden Hildebrand was an efficient 13-for-20 for 259 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Freshman Kierre Crossley led UCA with 10 carries for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

UCA took the opening kickoff 62 yards on seven plays to take the early lead. Sophomore Carlos Blackman capped the march with a seven-yard run to give the Bears a 7-0 lead with 13:08 left in the opening quarter.

Sophomore Juwan Petit-Frere answered on the ensuing kickoff, returning it 79 yards to set up the Lions at the UCA 13-yard line. However, Thomas was stuffed on fourth-and-short to keep SLU off the board.

UCA drove into Southeastern territory after getting the ball back on downs. On third-and-one, senior Jake Jiannoni stopped Crossley for no gain, then Williams II deflected a fourth-down pass by Hildebrand gave SLU the ball back.

On the ensuing drive, the Lions again moved into Central Arkansas territory. However, the Lions’ drive stalled and senior Dillon Burkhard’s 45-yard field goal missed wide right in the final minute of the opening quarter to keep the Bear lead at 7-0.

After the two teams traded punts, UCA doubled its lead. A 46-yard strike from Hildebrand to senior Brandon Cox set up a one-yard touchdown run by Crossley that gave the Bears a 14-0 lead with 10:30 left in the opening half.

UCA moved into Southeastern territory after another Lion punt, but the drive stalled and the Bears set up for a 45-yard field goal attempt by freshman Hayden Ray. UCA tried to fake it, but senior Max Lyons and freshman Ron Cherry stopped Hildebrand short to give the Lions the ball back with 1:14 left on the clock.

On the half’s final drive, Thomas connected on a 33-yard pass – his first attempt of the game – to freshman Austin Mitchell. Nunez then came in later on the drive and connected on a 31-yard pass to sophomore Javon Conner to set up a 25-yard Burkhard field goal that sent the Lions into the break down, 14-3.

On the first drive of the second half, SLU went for it on fourth and short in its own territory and Maracalin was stopped short. Four plays later, Cressley raced in from 18 yards out to extend the Bear lead to 21-3 with 12:31 left in the third quarter.

The Lions again moved into Bear territory, but had to settle for a 49-yard Burkhard field goal attempt that narrowly missed wide right. Three plays later, Hildebrand found senior Roman Gordon open for a 16-yard touchdown pass that pushed the Central Arkansas advantage to 28-3 with 8:42 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing drive, the Lions moved into UCA territory. However, Chris Terrell stripped Nunez on a sack and Raphael Garner raced untouched for a 38-yard fumble return and a 35-3 Bear advantage with 5:44 left in the third quarter.

On his first collegiate drive, Walker led SLU on an 14-play, 52-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 41-yard Burkhard field goal to cut the lead to 35-6 with 14:12 left in the contest. UCA answered with a nine-play, 57-yard scoring drive of its own, as Ray connected on a 21-yard field goal to make the lead 38-6 with 10:23 left.

Southeastern will return home to host Lamar for Military Appreciation Day next Saturday at Strawberry Stadium. All military personnel will receive a free ticket with a valid military ID for the 7 p.m. contest. For more information on Military Appreciation Day, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466.

In addition, next Saturday’s game will also serve as the 2017 Hall of Fame game. This year’s class of Kari Yost (soccer), Cass Hargis (baseball) and Tommy Connors (football) will be inducted in a private ceremony before the game and will be recognized along with all other Southeastern Athletics Hall of Fame members in attendance at halftime of Saturday’s SLU-Lamar contest.

The game will be broadcast by the Southeastern Channel, which will offer a live
video stream of the Lions-Cardinals battle via the Southland Digital Network at www.southland.org/live. The contest can also be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, WFPR 1400 AM), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio app.

SLU – 0 3 0 3 – 6 (0-3, 0-1 Southland)
UCA – 7 7 21 3 – 38 (2-1, 1-0 Southland)

Scoring Summary
1st Quarter
UCA – Blackman 7 run (Ray kick), 13:08
2nd Quarter
UCA – Crossley 1 run (Ray kick), 10:30
SLU – Burkhard 25 FG, 0:00
3rd Quarter
UCA – Crossley 18 run (Ray kick), 12:31
UCA – Gordon 15 pass from Hildebrand (Ray kick), 8:42
UCA – Garner 38 fumble return (Ray kick), 5:44
4th Quarter
SLU – Burkhard 41 FG, 14:21

SLU UCA
FIRST DOWNS 17 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 56-195 42-214
PASSING YDS 84 259
Passes Att-Comp-Int 13-6-0 21-13-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 69-279 63-473
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 1-38
Kickoff Returns-Yards 7-175 2-74
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 2-9
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 4-43.2 3-43.3
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-45 6-59
Possession Time. 33:44 26:16
Third-Down Conversions 5-of-16 6-of-12
Fourth-Down Conversions 2-of-4 0-of-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-3 5-5

RUSHING: SLU – Bethea 14-69, Maracalin 16-68, Walker 5-32, Thomas 9-31, Cooper 5-20, Johnson 6-(-6), Nunez 1-(-19). Totals – 56-195. UCA – Crossley 10-81, Fernandez 6-33, Blackman 11-29, Hildebrand 4-25, Cox 2-24, Cooper 4-12, Battle 5-10. Totals – 42-214.

PASSING: SLU – Nunez 4-8-0-52-0, Walker 1-4-0-(-1)-0, Thomas 1-1-0-33-0. Totals – 6-13-0-84-0. UCA – Hildebrand 13-20-0-259-1, Smith 0-1-0-0-0. Totals – 13-21-0-259-1.

RECEIVING: SLU – Conner 2-30, Mitchell 1-33, Maracalin 1-9, Tolbert 1-6, Ingraffia 1-6. Totals – 6-84. UCA – Dillard 3-71, Gordon 3-29, Battle 2-59, Smith 2-16, Cox 1-46, Wells 1-21, Cooper 1-17. Totals – 13-259.

A – 10,237.

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