From UCA Sports
Jerry East, Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations
CONWAY – The University of Central Arkansas Bears spread the wealth Thursday night in opening the 2016 season with a convincing 56-13 victory over the Houston Baptist Huskies in Southland Conference action at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
Eight different players scored touchdowns for the Bears, including a pair of defensive scores, as UCA rolled up 554 yards of total offense and averaged 6.8 yards per offensive play. The Bears scored 21 points in both the first and second quarters to end the suspense early in the SLC opener for both teams.
UCA’s defense held the Huskies to just 242 total yards on 80 plays (3.0 per carry), and just 90 yards in the second half. The Bears recorded 15 tackles for loss for minus 69 yards, following 13 for loss in last year’s 43-7 victory in Houston.
The Bears, who scored on six of their first seven possessions, opened the night with a five-play, 54-yard drive ending in a 3-yard pass from junior quarterback Hayden Hildebrand to senior receiver Desmond Smith. Matt Cummins added his first of eight PATs for a 7-0 lead at the 11:52 mark of the first quarter. UCA then got a 14-yard touchdown run by senior Kelton Warren and a 1-yarder from Hildebrand to close out the first quarter at 21-0.
Junior rover George Odum blocked a 54-yard field goal attempt by HBU’s Alex Chadwick and senior Tyler Williams returned it 46 yards for a touchdown at the 12:17 mark of the second period. Hildebrand found junior Brandon Cox for a 37-yard touchdown and junior Cardell Best forced a fumble that senior Devin Spurlock returned 2 yards for another score before halftime. The Huskies finally got on the board with Chadwick’s 26-yard field goal with 3:34 left before the half.
Senior running back Antwon Wells posted UCA’s third rushing touchdown, from 2 yards out, for a 49-3 advantage with 9:09 left in the third quarter. Chadwick connected again for the Huskies from 32 yards before redshirt UCA freshman running back Keshawn Ledet got a 13-yard touchdown run with 1:45 remaining in the third. After a UCA fumble, HBU quarterback Max Staver connected with David Racine from 31 yards out midway through the fourth quarter to set the final.
Hildebrand, a junior from Bossier City, La., completed 17 of 21 passes for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 52 more yards before being spelled by sophomore Kirk Baugh. Freshman running back Carlos Blackman of Gosnell gained 98 yards on 15 carries, all in the second half, to lead all rushers. Senior Jatavious Wilson caught six passes for an even 100 yards for the Beras, while Smith added six catches for 78 yards. Smith moved to fifth in school history with 162 career receptions and seventh in career receiving yards with 2,013.
Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Roy Sutton led the tackle chart with seven stops. Spurlock had five tackles, forced a fumble and recovered one. Chris Terrell, Dawson Hadnot and Tyler Williams all had two tackles for loss, while Jordan Toliver and Terrence Partee had 1.5 each.
HBU’s All-Southland Conference linebacker Garrett Dolan finished with 18 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, while fellow linebacker Dorrin Turner added 13 tackles. Tony Dawson completed 10 of 27 passes for 127 yards, while Terrance Peters gained 65 yards on 14 carries. Isaiah Hall caught eight passes for 90 yards.
UCA continues a three-game homestand next Saturday, hosting the Samford Bulldogs at 7 p.m. at Estes Stadium.