The way the University of Central Arkansas defense reacted to sudden change laid the foundation Saturday night for the 38-6 romp over Southeastern Louisiana.
The Bears took the opening possession and drove 63 yards in seven plays for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
The Lions’ Juwan Petit-Frere, one of the most dangerous return artists in NCAA FCS, returned the ensuing kickoff to the UCA 12. The Lions eventually faced fourth and two at the 4. Defensive end Chris Terrell got penetration inside, then stuck out a leg and tripped quarterback Micah Thomas on the option. The defensive support came quickly for the fourth-down stop.
“The defense came out and and determined what the night was gonna be like,” said UCA coach Steve Campbell at the weekly Bearbackers luncheon Monday. “It’s hard to stop a team on what we call a sudden change (of momentum). I think that stop set the tone for the game. It was something to build off of.”
He was pleased with not allowing the Lions, who had scored 48 points two weeks ago in a 51-48 loss to the University of Louisiana, a touchdown.
“We are young on defense, particularly up front wtih Javien Williams, A’Javious Brown and Eric Jackson, but we call (linebacker) George Odum the ‘eraser,’” Campbell said. “If we make a mistake up there, he has the speed to clean things up.”
Seven different backs, led by Kierre Crossley’s 81 yards, carried the ball and seven different receivers caught a pass.
Freshman place-kicker Hayden Ray kicked five extra points and a 21-yard field goal filling in for Matt Cummins, who has a hip injury.
“Matt was kicking well in warmups but we wanted to hold him out so going into an open week, he could be 100 percent the next week,” Campbell said. “The situation never presented itself we needed him.”
Patrick Ponder, recovering from an injury, averaged 43.3 on thee punts and his hang time limited Petit-Frerer to fair catch with no chance of a return.
“If you can get the ball high and your gunners (the speed coverage players on the outside) can get there and be sitting there, your coverage is like a third baseman with Tom Seaver on the mound, getting people to strike out or hit into double plays,” Campbell said. “You can cover up a lot of mistakes with a punter.”
THE FAKE: Campbell said a fake field goal attempt in the second quarter with the ball on fourth and 13 at SLC 28 was in the game plan.
“I would have rather have it be third and five or six but we wanted to do it,” Campbell said. “Southeastern has blocked some kicks and they come at you hard. We wanted to show that we had a fake in our bag of tricks in case we needed to attempt a field goal late to win the game. We wanted to do it one time to discourage them from coming off the edge.”
A BREAK: The Bears have the bye on their schedule early and that gives them two weeks to prepare for the home showdown against third-ranked Sam Houston State, who plays upstart Nicholls on Saturday coming off its bye week.
“Sam Houston against Nicholls should be a really tough game that should give us some good film to watch,” Campbell said. “We’ve got the weekend to watch film, practice and develop a game plan.”