The University of Central Arkansas defensive coaches award a rotating WWE-type belt to the most dominating defensive player in each game.
After the 44-17 victory over McNeese State, ends Chris Chambers and Chris Terrell shared the belt even though linebacker George Odum had 16 tackles, shared the L.B. Jackman Award for the outstanding player in the homecoming game and was named Southland Conference defensive player of the week.
“Last week, Juan Jackson was the defensive player of the week in the conference but didn’t get the belt,” UCA coach Steve Campbell noted at Monday’s weekly Bearbacker luncheon. “It’s a testament to our defense that guys can get player of the week and not get the outstanding player in their own room. It shows what kind of players we’ve got over there.”
Chambers had a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and scoop-and-score TD on one play. Terrell and tackle Eric Jackson had disrupted games.
Campbell said it was a total team victory as the Bears scored on offense, defense and special teams.
“Everyone had to contribute in a big way,” Campbell said. “It was our best game a far as special teams.”
A blocked punt by Luke Ross that resulted in a scoop-and-score by Jackie Harvell turned the game around in the second quarter, giving UCA the lead for good at 16-10. “That gave us a bolt of enthusiasm and confidence plus created some separation,” Campbell said.
Hayden Hildebrand, who shared both the Jackman and SLC awards (SLC offensive player of the week) with Odum, completed 12 of 16 passes for four touchdowns.
“He had a very efficient day,” said Campbell. “We didn’t throw the much, but we were able to take some shots. We got enough of a ground game going where the play-action was still effective and force them to play man defense, where we could take a shot.”
That resulted in the decisive touchdown right before the half after a 26-yard run by Kierre Crossley set up a 55-yard touchdown pass from Hildebrand to Brandon Cox.
“Nathan Brown (offensive coordinator) were talking on the earphones,” Campbell said. “We had just taken the 23-10 lead were backed up on our 19. We decided to stay conservative and we would take a 23-10 lead into half. Then, Kierre breaks one outside to about midfield. Then, I told Nathan to take and shot.”
The Cowboys entered the game No. 2 in the nation in turnover margin. UCA had no turnovers.
“McNeese had given up only 10 points the last four weeks but a lot of their strength came off turnovers,” Campbell said. “If they intercept it, they are going to take it to the house. If you fumble, it may be a scoop-and-score. We did a good of protecting the football.”