BEAUMONT, Texas – When Lamar University steps on the field Saturday for its Homecoming showdown against No. 4 Central Arkansas, it will be a contrast of teams heading in opposite directions. The Cardinals would like to change the direction for both schools Saturday beginning with the 6 p.m. kick off.
The Cardinals enter Saturday’s game with a 1-7 (.125) overall record and one of two Southland schools still searching for it first conference win of the season (0-6). The Cardinals have dropped six straight since crushing UT Permian Basin in the home opener.
UCA travels to the Golden Triangle as the Southland leader with a 7-1 (.875) overall record and the lone remaining undefeated team in SLC games (6-0). The Bears have rattled off seven-straight wins since a season-opening setback at Kansas State. Since that time, UCA has been held to fewer than 28 points only twice, and both of those games were league victories. Of the Bears seven wins in 2017, only one (Stephen F. Austin) has been a margin of fewer than 10 points.
“Central Arkansas is the best team in our league right now,” said LU head coach Mike Schultz. “I simply can’t say enough good things about them. They have a great defense led by Chris Chambers, who in my opinion has to be a favorite for the defensive player of the year. He makes plays all over the field. On the back end of their defense they have George Odum and Tremon Smith which makes their secondary extremely tough. Then you flip to the other side of the ball, Hayden Hildebrand is the catalyst for their offense. He doesn’t turn the ball over, and moves the ball around extremely well to get it in the hands of their receivers. UCA also does a very good job of running the football.”
Big Red’s defense enters Saturday looking to do something that not many others have been able to do, and that is slow down UCA’s high octane offense. The Bears average better than 35 points and more than 445 yards per game this season. Defensively, UCA is second in the league surrendering fewer than 21 points and 359 yards of total offense per game.
While the Cardinals’ defense has struggled at times this to slow down opponents, they remain among the nation’s best at forcing their opponents into turnovers. The Cardinals forced Stephen F. Austin into five fumbles last week, recovering three, and picked off two passes. The Cardinals currently lead the nation in fumbles recovered and rank second in the Southland in interceptions.
The Cardinals are averaging just under 26 points per game this season but struggled last week against SFA finishing the night with seven points. Big Red’s seven-point outing was its lowest of the season. The Cardinals are fifth in the Southland averaging just under 400 yards of total offense per game (396.2 ypg).
“Lamar is very balanced on offense,” said UCA head coach Steve Campbell. “They have two excellent quarterbacks who can run and throw, to go along with explosive, big wide receivers. Defensively, they present a lot of problems with the different looks that they show. We have our work cut out for us but we are looking forward to the trip.”
The Cardinals will step on the field looking for their first victory over Central Arkansas. The series against the Bears dates back to the 2011 season with the Bears holding a 6-0 record all-time. LU is also looking to get back to the .500 mark in Homecoming games posting a 22-23-1 (.489) all-time record. The Red and White have lost consecutive Homecoming contests with the last victory coming during the 2014 season with LU defeating Houston Baptist, 72-14. The Cards are 0-2 all-time against UCA on Homecoming.
Saturday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.