Once,the University of Central Arkansas Bears put the hay in the barn Saturday night, the only question was whether they could keep the horse in the stable.
UCA struck early and often in building a 31-3 halftime lead over Murray State at Murray, Ky., on the way to a dominating, 41-13 victory.
Murray State has a tradition of when it scores a touchdown, “Racer.” its horse mascot takes a lap around the track.
That didn’t happen until 1:20 was left when Shuler Bentley passed 25 yards to L.J. Gainey against the UCA reserves.
The Bears (1-1), playing their first FCS opponent, had seven different backs carry the ball and 10 different receivers catch passes as coach Steve Campbell cleared his bench in the second half with several players seeing their first action as a Bear.
“We played a lot of guys out there and the young guys played really well,” said Campbell.
Senior quarter Hayden Hildebrand provided a steady hand, completing 19 of 25 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns.
The biggest was a 74-yard touchdown pass to Joe Hampton in the final minute of the half to put UCA up 31-3.
“It was a big deal to get that touchdown right before the half,” said Campbell. “It gave us some separation and we needed that.”
UCA took a 24-0 lead before the Racers (1-1) scored.
After a 28-yard field goal by Matt Cummins, Carlos Blackman scored from 1 yard out after Chris Terrell returned a fumble from a strip by Chris Chambers.
Hildebrand passed 12 yards to Jakari Dillard and 5 yards to Brandon Myers to put the Bears up, 24-0. The pass to Hampton occurred after the Racers kicked a field goal.
Blackman, who rushed for 52 yards on 16 carries, scored from the 1 in the second half. Freshman Hayden Ray, handling the place-kicking duties after an injury to Cummins, capped the scoring with a 36-yard field goal.
Conway’s Brandon Cox was UCA’s leading receiver with 102 yards on five receptions.
UCA’s home opener is also its Southland Conference opener Saturday at 7:15 p.m. against Southeastern Louisiana.