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No. 4 UCA too much for Lamar to Bear

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — Lamar trailed the fourth-ranked Central Arkansas Bears by only seven points late in the first half before the Bears rattled off 28 points to defeat Big Red, 42-14, on Homecoming Saturday at Provost Umphrey Stadium.

The Cardinals (1-8, 0-7 Southland) finished the night with 279 yards of total offense, while UCA recorded 565, including 332 on the ground. LU got an inspired effort from senior Blake McKenzie who came off the bench to complete 14-of-23 (.609) passes for 165 yards and a touchdown.

Big Red’s defense continues to rank among the nation’s leaders at forcing opponents into miscues. The Cardinals forced Central Arkansas into two turnovers by recovering a fumble and picking off a Hayden Hildebrand pass. The interception was recorded by Nate Jones – his team-high fifth, and the third consecutive game he has recorded a pick.

“UCA is a good football team – no doubt about it,” said LU head coach Mike Schultz. “I give them all the credit. Of their five starters on the offensive line four are seniors I believe, and they were all over 300 pounds. I thought that our kids played hard, and our defense fought extremely hard tonight. I looked out their tonight at one time and we had five true freshmen on the field defensively, and they’re fighting their tails off. I’m proud of these guys for that.”

Despite the final score, it wasn’t an easy night for the league-leading Bears. After scoring the first touchdown of the game less than five minutes in, the Cardinals battled right back to tie the game. LU took advantage of Jones’ interception as senior quarterback Andrew Allen moved the Cards 49 yards down the field in just three plays for the score. Sophomore Cole Starnes capped the drive with a two-yard run to pull LU even with 6:39 remaining in the opening quarter.

The momentum of the score was on the opposite sideline just moments before Starnes’ run. On second-and-goal from the UCA 10, Allen’s pass was picked off on the six and returned 94 yards by Juan Jackson for an apparent touchdown, only to have the play nullified on a pass interference call. The Cardinals took advantage of the miscue scoring on the very next play.

The penalties favored LU on Homecoming as the Cardinals were flagged three times, while UCA was penalized seven times for 71 yards.

Unfortunately, the Bears responded on the ensuing kickoff as Jackson returned the ball 61 yards down to the LU 27 yard line. Following a UCA penalty and a negative rush, the Bears Kierre Crossley put the Bears back in front with a 40-yard run for the score.

The deficit remained seven points until 4:14 remaining in the second quarter when UCA tacked on another score. It was the second of four consecutive touchdowns for the Bears as they surged in front of the Cardinals, 42-7.

The Cardinals never quit fighting Saturday as McKenzie had the team on the march early in the fourth quarter. McKenzie guided the Cardinals on a six-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard pass to Case Robinson for the score. It was Robinson’s third TD reception of the year and McKenzie first TD pass of his career.

“I can’t say enough about Blake,” said Schultz. “The one thing that Blake brings to this team is leadership. He was in a backup role for most of the year but now he is our starter. If you went to every kid on our program and asked them who is the best leader on our team, they would tell you Blake McKenzie.”

“Blake did some nice things tonight and made some nice throws. He also threw some balls away at the right time which shows maturity,” added Schultz.

The Cardinals return to action Saturday when they travel to Houston Baptist to take on the Huskies. The game against HBU is slated to kick off at 2 p.m.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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