Posted on September 17, 2016
CONWAY, Arkansas– The University of Central Arkansas Bears used some tough running by senior Antwon Wells and a pair of touchdown passes from junior Hayden Hildbrand to notch a 24-10 victory over the Northwestern State Demons on Saturday night at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
The victory kept the Bears (2-1, 2-0) on top of the Southland Conference standings, in sole possession after Incarnate Word’s loss to Nicholls. The Demons, who lost to the Bears for the third consecutive season, dropped to 0-3 and 0-2.
Wells, a senior fromm Moss Point, Miss., made the best of the most extensive action of his career, carrying 25 times for 129 yards to lead UCA’s rushing attack, which accounted for 227 hard-earned yards on the ground. Wells, who entered the game with 45 yards on 12 attempts in the Bears’ first two games, carried the ball that many times on UCA’s last drive that all but ran out the clock. NSU got the ball back down two scores with 41 seconds left but barely crossed midfield as time expired.
Hildebrand, from Bossier City, La., completed 11 of 20 passes for 136 yards, including touchdown passes of 49 yards to senior Jatavious Wilson early in the second quarter, and 5 yards to senior Desmond Smith later in the period that staked the Bears to a 14-0 lead.
NSU backup quarterback Joel Blumenthal came on late in the second quarter and led the Demons to their only touchdown drive, a quick three-play, 75-yard series that ended in a 25-yard pass from Blumenthal to Shakeir Ryan to make it 14-7 at halftime.
UCA pushed its lead to 21-7 at the 9:55 mark of the third quarter on a 12-yard run by Hildebrand, and sophomore placekicker Matt Cummins made it 24-7 with a 33-yard field goal with 3:35 left in the period. Eric Piccione kicked a 44-yard field goal in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter for NSU’s final points of the night.
NSU finished with 169 rushing yards against a UCA defense that was No. 1 in the nation, allowing just 2.5 rushing yards per game through its first two games. Chris Jones had 86 yards on 11 carries for the Demons. Blumenthal and starter Brooks Haack combined to complete 13 of 24 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively for the Bears, junior rover George Odum led the charge with 10 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss. Senior cornerback Tyler Williams forced a fumble by NSU’s Tuff McClain early in the third quarter that Juan Jackson recovered and UCA capitalized on it with Hildebrand’s rushing touchdown.
NSU’s junior linebacker Nick Pierotti led all tacklers with 16 stops, while senior safety Adam Jones finished with 12.
UCA heads to Jonesboro on Saturday to take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves at 6 p.m. at Centennial Bank Stadium.