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CSN Down South: Banner-Carrying Bears, Big Winner in Bowling Green
By Jason Plotkin, CSN Down South Columnist
The University of Central Arkansas wasn’t interested in seeing its second game against a Football Bowl Subdivision squad this season go from a possible victory to defeat in the final minutes. This same UCA squad was within 82 seconds of defeating Hawaii in the middle of the night during the year’s first full football weekend, before coming up on the short end of a 25-20 final.
This time, the foe was Western Kentucky and the final verdict, a 28-7 victory for the Bears.
In a game featuring two squads on the move, it was the school transitioning from Division II to the Division I Football Championship that beat the newest FBS team on the block.
After a scoreless first quarter, Clint Conque’s squad put the first two scores on the board. Leonard Ceaser scored on a 51-yard run early in the second stanza with Robbie Park hitting Preston Echols from six yards out to make the score 14-0.
The one-time Division I national champion Hilltoppers got their lone points on the board just before the end of the opening half. Taking advantage of a questionable holding call on 4th-and-8, WKU was given a second chance to continue possession.
UCA didn’t need much time to score twice more, using a three-play drive to produce a 73-yard Darrius McNeal reception from Park and just four plays before Brent Grimes ran in for 18 yards out to finalize the scoring on the day.
For the Southland Conference, it might have been the league’s first triumph over an FBS school since 2007 when Nicholls beat Rice and McNeese beat Louisiana-Lafayette. However, the league now has won 16 games against FBS opponents since 2000, including a 9-4 mark against teams from the neighboring Sun Belt Conference, the youngest of the FBS conferences.
A LOOK AT THIS PAST WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS AND STORY LINES
STEPHEN F. SINKS WIU. Stephen F. Austin entered the contest against Western Illinois coming off a 92-0 victory over NAIA Texas College. With fans nationwide questioning the offensive consistency of the Jacks, Jeremy Moses continued to impress with a 33-of-54 performance for 390 yards and four touchdowns. While the ever-present passing game was clicking, the running game made an appearance with Vincent Pervis rushing 16 times for a career-high 105 yards.
DEMONS FIND THEIR MAN? There were questions regarding the quarterback position at Northwestern State in this column and across the FCS landscape. Louisville transfer Tyler Wolfe made his first appearance and was on the money, throwing 25-of-38 for 307 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly, he avoided getting sacked or throwing an interception, on way to becoming the first Demons QB since 2001 to throw for more than 300 yards in a game. NWST couldn’t stop the Sioux’s Mitch Sutton, as he ran for a touchdown, threw another and got a crucial special teams block for a safety in one of the more impressive all-around performances in the nation on Saturday.
AND THE COWBOYS ROLL. After nearly lossing to Henderson State as McNeese looked ahead to Appalachian State, there were concerns whether the Pokes would overlook Savannah State. With 28 points in the first quarter, the question was answered quickly. Toddrick Pendland had two touchdown runs of more than 40 yards and Derrick Fourroux threw three touchdowns in just a half of work.
AND CONNORS SUFFERS INJURY. Southeastern La. defensive back Tommy Connors suffered an injury to his right thumb during the first quarter of last Saturday’s game at Ole Miss. A Buck Buchanan Watch list candidate, Connors will undergo surgery on Wednesday and as of press-time, no prognosis on his injury is known.
On a UCA unit full of All-SLC talent, it is easy to overlook a few players. Linebacker James Lancaster, however, made a name for himself in the team’s victory over WKU. Lancaster wreaked havoc for the Hilltoppers, picking up six tackles (1.5 for loss), besides forcing a fumble and making the game-winning interception in the fourth quarter that all but assured that the Bears would reign victorious at the end of the night.
THIS WEEK’S SLATE
There’s a mix of games on the docket this week for the eight SLC schools.
Three schools travel to FBS institutions as McNeese heads to Tulane, Sam Houston State goes north to Tulsa and Northwestern State travels back into Texas to face Baylor.
Of the three games, the Pokes’ contest against Tulane is the most likely for a SLC victory. The Green Wave have struggled this year in losses to Tulsa and Brigham Young. While tough opposition, this Tulane squad has squeaked by against FCS teams in the past and as Appalachian State can attest, McNeese is no joke.
The remaining Texas and Louisiana squads will face FCS foes. North Dakota returns to the SLC for the second straight week, playing Stephen F. Austin while former LSU quarterback Ryan Perriloux makes his Pelican State return with Jacksonville State at Nicholls. Southwestern Athletic Conference member Texas Southern will travel to Texas State as it has for the last few years for that intra-state rivalry game. Southeastern La. travels to South Dakota in the lone road trip for a conference school against the FCS with Central Arkansas hosting sub-Division I Glenville State.
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Lagniappe – A Bit Extra To Write Home About
* Lamar has named its practice facility adjacent to Provost Umphrey Stadium, the “Coach Vernon Glass Field of Champions."Glass served as the head coach of the Lamar program for 13 seasons, winning SLC titles in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1971, finishing his tenure in Beaumont with a 63-68-1 record. Making $200,000 in donations were former player Bert Simmons and his wife Martye. Simmons felt the name was fitting because Coach Glass “would say that we won or lose our games on the practice field – not in the stadium.”
* Last week, NWST announced that rookie free agent receiver Dudley Guice has signed on with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Guice had signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans and according to an article in the Winnipeg Free Press has already made good impressions.
* This week’s Southland TV game features TSU visiting TXST. In an uncommon practice, it has been the Tigers from the SWAC, who have visited San Marcos for each of their games, which have occurred three times in the last four years. TSU has lost 41-21 in 2006 and 63-39 last year to the Bobcats.