CONWAY, Ark. – The No. 12 Central Arkansas Bears scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to come back and stun the No. 25 Sam Houston State Bearkats, 29-25, on Saturday night at Estes Stadium.
Sam Houston (5-4, 4-2 SLC) led nearly the whole way, including 16-0 at the half, but the Bears (6-2, 4-1 SLC) threw for 253 yards in the second half to aid its comeback effort and surge into sole possession of first place in the league.
Donovan Williams posted career highs with 33 rushes for 161 yards and a pair of scores, while Nathan Stewart turned in his 20th career 100-yard receiving game with 110 yards on five grabs.
The Kats had a chance to win it late, driving deep into UCA territory in the final minute of the game before UCA broke through for its first sack of the entire game, forcing its only takeaway of the game to seal it with just 24 seconds to play.
For UCA, quarterback Breylin Smith threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Joe Hampton.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Bearkats were able to take advantage of a short field for their first points of the night as a defensive stop and a nice punt return by Dwayne Williams set SHSU up at the UCA 25-yard line on the second drive of the game.
The Kats then used the legs of Donovan Williams to get into the end zone with Williams punching it in from 10 yards out to cap the drive.
UCA was knocking on the door in the second quarter, on the verge of tying it up, before Jaylen Thomas put his mark on the game. The junior cornerback picked off UCA quarterback Breylin Smith in the end zone to end the threat and keep the Kats ahead.
A pair of big receptions by Nathan Stewart helped flip the field and SHSU took advantage of that when freshman Jevon Leon burst through the line for consecutive sacks. The second of which forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by UCA for a safety to push the SHSU lead to 9-0 with 6:32 left in the half.
Two drives later the Kats had to start off pinned at their own 1-yard line with 2:17 left in the half. They proceeded to march the final 99-yards into the end zone on nine plays, capping it with a 10-yard pass from Brock to Brennon Tibbs with just nine seconds remaining in the half.
That gave SHSU a 16-0 lead at the break, holding the Bears to -1 rushing yards on 17 attempts in the half, while Williams had 84 yards on the ground.
UCA wasted little time finally getting into the end zone in the third quarter as they took the opening drive of the second half and went 75 yards for their first touchdown of the game, getting a 40-yard pass from Smith to Joe Hampton up the left sideline to get back into the game.
SHSU had a response two drives later as they got into the end zone for the third time on the night to re-up the lead to 22-7. Brock connected with Stewart for a 32-yard pass to convert a key third down on the drive before Williams took it the final two yards for his second score of the day; however, the Kats missed the point-after try and that would turn out to be key.
But Smith found Hampton once again on the ensuing drive, this time for a 53-yard score that brought UCA back to within one score at 22-14. Things would stay right there until midway through the fourth quarter when Smith threw for his third touchdown of the game, this one on a 28-yard screen pass to Carlos Blackman, and then converted the two-point conversion to tie it up at 22-22 with 8:36 to play.
The Kats answered with a 42-yard field goal by Hunter Pinegar to go back in front, but the Bears continued to throw the ball and went 67 yards on the next drive to go in front for the first time, 29-25, on a 15-yard pass from Smith to Tyler Hudson.
The Kats will now have some time off with their bye week coming up. They will not be in action again until November 9 when they travel to take on Abilene Christian.