After a rocky start to the game, the University of Central Arkansas Bears (2-1, 1-0 Southland Conference) caught fire late in the first half and the Southeastern Louisiana University Lions (0-3, 0-1 SLC) had trouble putting it out in UCA’s 33-25 win in Hammond, Louisiana.
The Lions took an early 7-0 lead when senior running back Darren Johnson capped off a 65-yard opening drive for SLU.
The Bears struggled moving the ball, failing to pick up a first down until its fourth drive.
UCA couldn’t get points on the board yet, but it was coming.
In the meantime, the Lions were also struggling to get things going as the Bears defense showed why its one of the better units in the Southland Conference.
UCA would get on the board for the first time when sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith hit sophomore wide receiver Brandon Myers in stride on a 49-yard bomb.
A bad snap that skid along the ground, causing a failed extra point attempt, leaving the score at 7-6 with 9:49 left in the half.
The offense ran dry again before the Bears took over on their final possession of the half.
With 3:01 left in the half, UCA would drive down the field, starting at its own 32, looking to hold the advantage at halftime.
Smith would help lead the drive that ended in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Smith to senior running back Cedric Battle, giving the Bears 13-7 with 49 seconds left in the half.
With little time to work with before the half, SLU was set up at its 21.
Using the rest of the clock, Lions senior kicker Jonathan Tatum would make a 41-yard field goal as time expired, bringing the score to 13-10 in UCA’s favor at halftime.
The third quarter would prove to be fruitful to both teams as the Bears got things started with a 6-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Carlos Blackman under three minutes into the third quarter.
The UCA defense would cause a turnover, which was covered by junior defensive lineman Chris Terrell at the Lions’ 25.
Fifty-eight seconds later, the Bears would add another touchdown when Smith connected with senior wide receiver Jakari Dilliard on a 15-yard touchdown pass.
The Lions would close the gap to 10 points with 12 seconds left in the third quarter when sophomore running back Marcus Cooper ran for a 2-yard touchdown, making the score 27-17.
Smith wouldn’t let the pressure of SLU closing the gap to 10 when he orchestrated a 61-yard touchdown strike to Myers on the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter.
The extra point was missed when senior Matt Cummins point after attempt banged off the crossbar, making the score 33-17.
An hour, 17 minute lightning delay stopped play with 7:29 left in the game, causing the game to resume well after 11 p.m. The game eventually ended after midnight.
The lengthy delay was the second in consecutive weeks for UCA after an hour-plus delay last Saturday at Estes Stadium against Murray State.
After play resumed, the Bears were knocking at the doorstep of another score but turned the ball over on downs late in the fourth quarter.
A scary moment occurred with 1:39 left in the game when Lions senior Kyle Strickland had to leave the field on a stretcher after being down on the field for quite a while.
The Lions would cut the lead down to eight when Virgil threw a touchdown pass junior tight end Bransen Schwebel with 1:22 left in the game, bringing the score to 33-25 after converting on a 2-point attempt.
Smith finished, completing 22 of 31 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns, while Myers reeled in four passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
On the night, the Bears rushed for 114 yards with Blackman finishing as the leading rusher, running for 71 yards on 13 carries.
Junior defensive back Juan Jackson led UCA in tackles with seven, while senior defensive lineman Eric Jackson and sophomore defensive lineman A’Javious Brown finished with one sack each.
Junior defensive back Trai Mosley also intercepted SLU junior quarterback Chason Virgil.
The Bears go on a bye next week before playing a big battle Sept. 29 against Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas.