The most obvious game-winning play Saturday night was when Roman Gordon caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Hildebrand with 1:30 left to give the University of Central Arkansas a 24-20 victory over Stephen F. Austin
Gordan , a wide receiver, actually made two game-winning plays, one well under the radar.
It was one of several examples of how the Bears’ victory over the Lumberjacks — who probably have the best collection of sophomore athletes in the Southland Conference — was forged on a series of little things that led to big results.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 17, SFA’s Terrance Potts intercepted Hayden Hildebrand at full speed and returned it 17 yards to the UCA 18. Gordon made the tackle along with Dexter Chandler.
“The guy was running scot-free to the end zone and Roman helped get him to the ground,” Campbell said. “After the interception, a lot of receivers would have given up on the play. But Roman helped prevent the touchdown. Our defense stiffened and they ended up missing a field goal.”
And note all the little things that happened in the last 3:04.
SFA had taken a 20-17 lead.
Cedric Battle returned the kickoff to the SFA 38.
“Most of that was instinct,” Campbell said. “We had a middle return — put man on man and let Cedric run to daylight.”
Making two of the key initial blocks that created the daylight were freshman Jaylin Small and senior Jarvis Cooper.
“Jarvis (a fullback) had a big night blocking and being the wedge and breaking the wedge on our kickoff teams,” Campbell said. “He had no carries and no yards but did some big things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
There was a couple of things that probably eluded the untrained eye on the winning touchdown.
“The slant had worked for us all night,” said Campbell. “We had a slant-and-go called (Gordon was to fake the slant and pivot the other direction to create separation). For that to work, you have to sell the slant. Roman did that and got open. The offensive line provided good protection and Hayden waited for Roman get open and threw a perfect pass.”
But things were hardly over with UCA holding the 24-17 lead in the last minute. SFA had two timeouts left.
“I reminded our kickoff team that SFA was third in the nation on kickoff returns,” Campbell said.
So, Matt Cummins drove the kickoffs 9 yards deep into the end zone for a touchback.
“But Jarvis Cooper was right there downfield breaking up the wedge if they had tried to return,” said Cambell. “All that seemed to ignite our defense. They really got after the quarterback.”
UCA ended the game with three straight sacks on quarterback Jake Blumrick (one by Chris Chambers and Eric Jackson combined and two in a row by George Odum).
Flash back to the first quarter. Lester Wells scored on a 60-yard pass from Hildebrand. As Wells broke in the clear, wide receiver Brandon Cox ran across the field to escort Wells to the end zone.
“And Cox made a key block that sprung Kierre Crossley on a 52-yard run,” Campbell said.
That run set up a field goal that tied the game at 17 in the third quarter.
During the Bears’ regular position meetings Sunday night, Campbell summoned the entire team to show the players the video of those plays and others.
“A lot of little things Saturday we did not do well,” Campbell said. “But I wanted the whole team to see the little things we did right. I wanted the players to see what their teammates were doing with their efforts on the little things to produce the big plays.”
And the Bears avoided the Lumberjacks’ axe as much because of the miniscule as much as the monumental.