August 29, 2019
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The University of Central Arkansas Bears piled up 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on Thursday night to knock off the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 35-28 in the season opener at Houchens-Smith Stadium.
The FCS Bears downed the FBS Hilltoppers for the second consecutive time following a 28-7 win back in 2009 on the same field. This time, UCA overcame a 28-14 deficit to midway through the third quarter and put together scoring drives that covered 64 yards (7 plays), 80 yards (1 play) and 74 yards (5 plays), the latter with just 6:51 remaining, to pull off the upset again.
Two defensive stands by the Bears, the final one with just 46 seconds remaining, sealed UCA’s third victory over an FBS opponent. The Bears amassed 176 yards on just 12 plays in the fourth quarter and held the Hilltoppers to 140 yards on 24 plays and no points.
“I thought our guys fought, they believed in our plan,” said UCA head coach Nathan Brown. “Coach (Chad) Williams, Coach (Ken) Collums and Coach (Ryan) Howard, our coordinators, did a great job with their plans. Our players trusted them and that’s what it’s about in a big game like this against an FBS opponent. They’re a good football team. They’ve got a lot of good players, some really good length on the D-line.
“We had a lot of new faces that were having to learn on the fly. But man, what a great fourth quarter. And that’s something I told our guys… Last year’s team may have struggled and may have lost (the game), because we lost a lot of close ones in the fourth quarter. But I thought we learned from that and I think our guys paid attention to details and made plays when it mattered.’
The Bears, facing their second 14-point deficit of the night heading into the fourth quarter, cut the margin to 28-21 on the first play of the period when sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith hit sophomore receiver Lujuan Winningham with a 20-yard touchdown pass, his second of what would be three touchdown receptions on the night.
The Hilltoppers then missed a field goal after UCA’s defense held and the Bears pulled off a halfback pass from their own 20 yard line to tie the game. Senior running back Carlos Blackman found a wide open Lujuan Winningham in stride for 80 yards and a touchdown to make it 28-28 with 9:59 remaining.
A quick three-and-out for WKU gave the ball back to UCA at its own 26 with 8:53 left to play. Smith passed 38 yards to junior running back Kierre Crossley and 35 yards to Winningham down to the WKU 1. Blackman went in from there to give the Bears their first lead of the night at 35-28. UCA then turned to its defense, which recorded a pair of interceptions (Robert Rochelle, Duke Upshaw) but had to play the final three quarters without Upshaw, who was injured after his second career interception.
Rochell, a junior cornerback from Shreveport, broke up a pass on fourth down on WKU’s initial drive. After a UCA punt put the Hilltoppers at their own 22 with 2:30 remaining, the Bears allowed the Hilltoppers to reach the 33 before forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down.
“I thought the fourth quarter, we believed,” said Brown. “As soon as we got that game tied, then we got a big stop on the field goal, we knew we were going to take a shot with the halfback pass. Not ideal conditions to be backed up on your own (20), that’t not really where you script it to happen. But Coach Collums looked at me asked if I was good with it and I said let’s go get it. And obviously they bit on it and Lujuan was able to take it down and score.’
Winningham, a sophomore from Humble, Texas, finished with eight receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. He caught 12 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown all of last season. True freshman Tyler Hudson added four receptions for 59 yards and another score.
“Just two amazing athletes, two young guys,’ said Brown. “Tyler and Lujuan made them hurt and Breylin put it where it needed to be. The offensive line gave protection when we needed protection most. We made plays.’
Smith, who was playing for the first time since a broken ankle sidelined him in Game 4 of the 2018 season, was his old efficient self, completing 20 of 28 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns. In the first half alone, Smith was 14 of 17 (77.8 percent) for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears dug themselves an early two-touchdown hole after the Hilltoppers scored on their first play from scrimmage with a 68-yard touchdown run, then made it 14-0 with a 9-play, 56-yard drive at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter.
Two nice completions from Smith to Hudson, and another to Crossley got the Bears down to the WKU 6 at the close of the quarter. However, Blackman was stopped for no gain on fourth down on the first play of the second period to end the UCA threat. The Bears got on the board with 8:59 left in the half when Smith threaded a pass Winningham from 23 yards out on fourth down to close the gap to 14-7.
The Hilltoppers answered UCA’s score with a quarterback keeper from the three with 3:03 left in the half, good for a 21-7 lead. The Bears then worked their two-minute offense to perfection, aided by a pass interference on the Hilltoppers. Passes of 12 and 11 yards to Winningham set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Hudson with :23 left, bringing the Bears within 21-14 at the half.
The Hilltoppers pushed their lead to 28-14 six minutes into the second half with a 10-yard touchdown run by Gaej Walker that capped a 7-play, 60-yard drive before UCA put together its dominant fourth quarter.
The Bears finished with 424 yards of total offense, averaging 7.3 yards per play. Defensively, transfer linebacker Malik Wilson had a team-high eight tackles, while Rochell and Isaiah Macklin had seven each.
UCA returns to the road next Saturday, facing FCS Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn. Game time is 2 p.m.
|Total Offensive Yards||424||488|
|Time Of Possession||24:49||35:11|
|12:45 – WKU – WALKER, G. 68 yd run (MUNSON, C. kick ), 1 plays, 68 yards, TOP 0:12||0||7|
|06:16 – WKU – SIMON, J. 5 yd pass from DUNCAN, S. (MUNSON, C. kick ) 9 plays, 56 yards, TOP 3:47||0||14|
|08:59 – UCA – Winningham, Luj 23 yd pass from Smith, Breylin (Ray, Hayden kick ) 8 plays, 70 yards, TOP 3:11||7||14|
|03:03 – WKU – DUNCAN, S. 3 yd run (MUNSON, C. kick ), 12 plays, 83 yards, TOP 5:51||7||21|
|00:26 – UCA – Hudson, Tyler 4 yd pass from Smith, Breylin (Ray, Hayden kick ) 9 plays, 75 yards, TOP 2:37||14||21|
|08:54 – WKU – WALKER, G. 10 yd run (MUNSON, C. kick ), 7 plays, 60 yards, TOP 3:41||14||28|
|14:55 – UCA – Winningham, Luj 20 yd pass from Smith, Breylin (Ray, Hayden kick ) 7 plays, 64 yards, TOP 2:33||21||28|
|09:59 – UCA – Winningham, Luj 80 yd pass from Blackman, Carlo (Ray, Hayden kick ) 1 plays, 80 yards, TOP 0:11||28||28|
|06:51 – UCA – Blackman, Carlo 1 yd run (Ray, Hayden kick ), 5 plays, 74 yards, TOP 2:02||35||28|
Game Stat Leaders
- CMP 20
- TD 3
- YDS 324
- INT 0
#23 Blackman, Carlos
- CMP 1
- TD 1
- YDS 80
- INT 0