CONWAY, Ark. – The Lamar University football team recorded one of its best defensive performances of the season Saturday against the 20th-ranked Central Arkansas Bears, but it wasn’t enough as the short-handed Cardinals fell, 22-12, Saturday night at Estes Stadium. The loss snapped LU’s (3-4/3-2 Southland) three-game win streak, while the Bears remain atop the Southland standings with a 5-0 league mark (6-1 overall).
“You have to give Central Arkansas a lot of credit. They are a very good football team,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “We made some mistakes in the special teams especially early, but we had our opportunities. I thought defensively it was a great effort. They really kept us in the game all night, but we didn’t do enough offensively to win the game.”
The Cardinals were never able to find their rhythm offensively recording 220 yards of total offense, and just 15 yards on the ground. The Bears finished the night with 330 yards, including 122 coming from the ground game. LU’s defense was led by Davon Jernigan who recorded a game-high 13 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
Junior Andrew Allen came on in relief of starter Carson Earp and finished the night completing 17-of-37 passes for 151 yards. Sophomore Zae Giles was his favorite target hauling in seven passes for 63 yards.
The Cardinals struck first on the opening drive, but it appeared the UCA defense had put a stop to the drive. On third and nine, senior Carson Earp found DeWan Thompson over the middle for a 15-yard reception to keep the drive alive. Even more impressive than the first down was the fact that Thompson held on to the pass although he got upended by a big hit on the play. That catch led to a 30-yard field goal to give the Cards a 3-0 advantage.
The Cardinals defense came up with the next big play from their own 20-yard line. After putting together a time-consuming drive the Bears were facing 4th-and-short – from the LU 20 – and elected to go for it, but LU’s defensive front got a great surge to drop ball carrier for a loss to get the ball back. LU’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next possession but the offense was unable to take advantage.
It was the Bears specials teams that came to the aid of its offense in the opening half. After a 58-yard punt from senior Juan Carranco, the Bears Tremon Smith set up the game’s first touchdown with a 65-yard punt return. Three plays later UCA was in the end zone on a seven-yard run from Keshawn Ledet. The Bears tacked on a 19-yard field goal six minutes later to take a 10-3 advantage.
It was a special team’s miscue that led to Big Red’s next score. After forcing LU to punt the ball away from deep in its own territory, Central Arkansas had the opportunity to get the ball back in good field position but the punt was fumbled away. The Cardinals recovered the ball and moved it down to the UCA 19 to set up Carranco’s second field goal of the game to pull LU within four, 10-6, heading into the locker room.
Although the Bears finished the half with more yards of total offense, 157-103, Big Red held the advantage on time of possession. The Cardinals held the ball for more than 17 minutes in first half, while UCA had it for 12:43.
The Bears opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take a 19-6 advantage. After the Cardinals defense came up with a stop, UCA punted the ball away which was downed at the LU one-yard line. The punt would turn out to be huge as freshman Austin Krautz would be dropped in the end zone two plays later to give UCA a 12-6 lead. After kicking the ball away, the Bears mounted a four-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard pass reception to Kelton Warren.
Trailing 22-6, the Cardinals got the ball back midway through the fourth quarter. The Red and White got the ball in UCA territory after a penalty on a short kick. With the aid of a couple of penalties, the Cards moved the ball inside the five-yard line where Allen called his own number from two yards out. LU went for two but came up short trailing the Bears by 10, 22-12. The Cardinals got the ball back only one other time and could come no closer.
The Cardinals return to action Saturday, Oct. 29 when they will host Houston Baptist for Homecoming. The game against HBU will kick off from Provost Umphrey Stadium at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by logging on to www.LamarCardinals.com, or by calling the LU Ticket Office at (409) 880-1715.