University of Central Arkansas quarterback Hayden Hildebrand and cornerback Tre Smith were honored for their efforts in Saturday’s 41-30 win over Sam Houston State.
Hildebrand was named the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week, while Smith was named the SLC Defensive Player of the Week.
Smith played the role of tone-setter when he picked off reigning Walter Payton Award Winner Jeremiah Briscoe four plays into the game and ran 42 yards for a touchdown.
“Jumping in front of the route is part of the technique,” Smith said. “We’ve been preparing two weeks now for a hard-fought team and a hard-fought win. I’m just glad we can really pull it off.”
Smith once again intercepted a pass from Briscoe on the Bearkats’ first possession after halftime, returning that interception 17 yards.
Soon, Briscoe was targeting the opposite side of the field Smith was covering.
“I loved this game, and glad I can do anything for our team,” Smith said. “I was telling them these last two weeks, ‘whatever it takes, let’s do it.’ It’s the one game that is going to be the setting stone and we pulled it out. I couldn’t be happier.”
Hildebrand, who finished the game with 294 yards passing with four touchdowns, credited the defense for the offense’s success.
“I thought our defense came out and did an incredible job, stopping one of the best offenses in the nation,” he said. “For a lot of teams, 30 points is pretty good total at the end of the day. Holding Sam Houston to 30 is saying something. Our defense did a good job of putting the offense in good position. We took advantages of some opportunities down the field and it worked out for us.”
Hildebrand threw 25 passes, but completed just 13, a lot of which were of the big play variety.
Hildebrand connected with seven different receivers with six of those receivers have receptions longer than 18 yards.
Hildebrand’s final pass was a 17-yard touchdown to wide receiver Brandon Cox, which sealed the game with 8:26 left to play.
“I couldn’t tell you what the secret to winning this game is,” he said. “Coach Campbell has a mind of his own, and I believe in it. We were clicking on all cylinders. We really wanted to win tonight. You just talk about all the resilience and I think we have it.”