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Bears can't take advantage, fall at home to Lumberjacks

by Adam Cole | November 14, 2021 at 3:31 a.m.

CONWAY -- University of Central Arkansas football caught a big break late Saturday.

On third and goal and down two scores in the fourth quarter, UCA quarterback Breylin Smith threw to receiver Tyler Hudson in the end zone. Stephen F. Austin defensive back Willie Roberts came up with it instead of Hudson, returning the interception about half the field before being forced out of bounds.

With a flag for defensive pass interference, Roberts' interception was void, and the Bears' had a new set of downs at their opponents' 2-yard line with seven minutes left. Hope was restored for a potential comeback, though it was dashed by the 4:26 mark of the quarter.

The Bears ran four plays on their new set of downs and had no gain on their first three tries. They broke the goal line on the final play, but it was called back for an illegal forward pass, forcing a turnover on downs and to add injury to insult, Smith was down.

It was indicative of the evening, as the Bears couldn't get anything going, especially late, in a 27-14 loss to the Lumberjacks that dashed any hope of postseason play for UCA.

"It's late in the year and you've got to figure out a way to get an edge in the game, and you've got two good football teams battling each other," UCA Coach Nathan Brown said. "I just didn't do enough."

UCA (5-5, 3-3 AQ7) was held to a season-low 304 yards on offense. It was the first time it'd been shut out in a half this season as well, and Smith and the usually explosive passing unit had its second lowest yardage total of the year.

"We just didn't create enough explosive plays in the pass game, and I think that was the big thing," Brown said. "We had some big plays in the run game, but we never were able to shake loose with the ball down the field, and that's something we're accustomed to."

Smith totaled 163 yards on 17-of-27 passing with a touchdown and interception. Mitchell Perkinson was Smith's leading receiver, with 51 yards, and Hudson turned in 48 yards.

Darius Hale also had an efficient night, rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, though his presence went dark after halftime. He turned in 11 of his carries before intermission, but he had just one carry -- for a yard -- in the third quarter.

Brown noted after the game that getting down two scores in the second half changed the attitude on running the ball. The Lumberjacks did take a two-score lead in the third quarter, going up 24-14, but they did so at the 11:12 mark of the third quarter.

For Stephen F. Austin, (7-3, 3-2) quarterback Trae Self was 17-of-28 passing with 219 and 3 touchdowns, all of which were to receiver Xavier Gipson, who Brown said was "as advertised."

Gipson, who's top-five in the FCS in receiving yards, finished the game with six catches for 99 yards, including a 73-yard catch for a touchdown on SFA's first play of the game.

While Hudson had a quiet night, he did break another school record, setting a single-season high for receiving yards. Hudson's 1,213 yards surpassed the former record of 1,197, which was set by Aaron Fairooz in 2005.

Smith, who went down with the late injury, is expected to have a diagnosis of a high ankle sprain.

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