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James gives Bears an offensive hand

by Sam Lane | November 13, 2022 at 2:43 a.m.

For as much that went wrong in last week's game, the University of Central Arkansas had just as much go perfectly on Saturday night against Stephen F. Austin.

The Bears totaled 407 yards of offense, held the Lumberjacks scoreless until late in the fourth quarter and got some help from their special teams to win 34-7 at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Kylin James ran for 155 yards on 10 carries, made 4 catches for 88 yards and scored 2 touchdowns as the Bears bounced back from a 42-14 loss to Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 5.

UCA (5-5) received the opening kick and drove 62 yards to take a 7-0 lead. The Bears used play-action to slip tight end Austin Eldridge past the defense, and quarterback Will McElvain hit him for the score from 3 yards out.

UCA's star running back, Darius Hale, missed last week's game with a hamstring strain. His absence was a contributing factor to the Bears' offensive struggles against Eastern Kentucky.

Hale made two carries and one reception Saturday, totaling 28 yards. But in his place, James had SFA (5-5) searching for answers.

James scored UCA's next two touchdowns to extended the lead to 27-0 after a pair of field goals by Hayden Ray.

Alongside James, Trysten Smith rushed 15 times for 44 yards.

"It's unfortunate that we hadn't had had Darius at full speed the last two weeks, and obviously didn't have him at all last week, but hopefully he'll be back and those other backs will continue to get to be effective for us," UCA Coach Nathan Brown said.

On the first score, McElvain connected with James for a 20-yard touchdown strike.

On the second score, backup quarterback Clifton McDowell drew in the defense with a fake run attempt then connected with James for a 38-yard score down the right side.

McDowell saw some of his first meaningful gametime in last week's defeat, scoring one of UCA's two touchdowns.

Brown said earlier in the week that he'd like to get McDowell even more involved in the offense due to the running ability he possesses.

McDowell rushed four times for 21 yards and used that threat to confuse the defense and turn his lone completion into a touchdown.

Less than a minute after James' second touchdown, UCA forced SFA to punt. Wide receiver Jarrod Barnes, who caught two passes for 27 yards, put his stamp on the game with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, evading multiple SFA defenders and even a few of his teammates to make it 34-0.

SFA avoided the shutout with a touchdown with 1:34 remaining. Third-string quarterback Brian Maurer connected on a 13-yard scoring pass to Griffi Edwards to set the final score.

Brown said his main concern heading into Saturday's matchup was containing SFA wide receiver Xavier Gipson.

Gipson had been at the heart of SFA's win in Conway last season, but he was held to one catch for 12 yards and one carry for 4 yards.

"It was one of the best game plans they've put together all year," Brown said. "They've been playing winning football all year. That's an explosive offensive. [SFA quarterback] Trae Self and Xavier Gipson are about as good a combo as there is at the FCS level, and we held them at bay. I thought [safety] Cameron Godfrey might have had his best night. ... Our front seven won the line of scrimmage, and I think that was the key throughout the game."

That front seven totaled 7 sacks and three quarterback hurries. The secondary, led by Godfrey, totaled six pass breakups.

UCA was left reeling after last week's loss to EKU.

Brown said he altered the Bears' practice schedule to lighten their load and see if that translated to the field Saturday.

The performance against SFA was just the kind of emphatic response Brown was looking for.

"We had a little wake-up call last week," Brown said. "I don't think we played very good. Our preparation was good this week. I thought we looked fresh. I think last week we looked a little worn down."

Print Headline: James gives Bears an offensive hand

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