Central Arkansas return to “The Stripes” for a Homecoming matchup with the Lamar Cardinals.
CONWAY — Coming off a big 35-0 shutout of the McNeese State Cowboys last Saturday, Central Arkansas return to “The Stripes” for a Homecoming matchup with the Lamar Cardinals at 6 p.m. Saturday.
No. 18 UCA (5-1, 4-0) hope to keep its unbeaten Southland Conference record intact, as well as beat the Cardinals for the sixth time in six meetings. The Cardinals (3-3, 3-1) are on a roll of their own, winning three consecutive SLC games over Southeastern Louisiana, Abilene Christian and Northwestern State.
“Here’s Lamar’s deal,” said UCA head coach Steve Campbell. “They are 3-3 riding a three-game winning streak. They come in as a hot football team.”
Last year’s matchup in Beaumont, Texas, was dominated by the running games. UCA senior Blake Veasley set school records with 49 carries for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Lamar’s Kade Harrington, the SLC’s leading rusher, ran for 243 yards on 22 carries on a rainy night at Provost Umphrey Stadium. Harrington will miss this year’s game with a foot injury suffered last week in the win over the Demons.
“He went out in the first quarter, and they had not been throwing the football for a lot of yards,’ said Campbell. “They had been turning around and handing it to Kade Harrington. But their quarterback threw for 412 yards after Harrington got hurt. They let the (Carson) Earp kid start throwing it around and he throws for 412 yards. So they can obviously throw the football.”
Lamar trailed Northwestern State by two scores (31-18) with two minutes left but scored twice, including the game-winner with six seconds remaining, for their only lead of the game.
“That gives them their third victory in a row in the Southland Conference,” said Campbell. “Lamar is a very good football team. Here is who has beaten Lamar… Houston, Top 10 in the nation in FBS, Sam Houston, No. 2 in the nation in FCS, and Coastal Carolina, which is in the Top 10. And since that point, they’ve really gone on a roll and have played really well.
“So we know they’ll come in here with a lot of confidence. They definitely have our guys’ attention. We like where we’re at, but we know you are only as good as your last time out. We need to play well this week in order to have a chance to beat a good Lamar football team.”
Defense has been the calling card for the 2016 Bears, who are leading the SLC in total defense (305.7 yards per game), rushing defense (65.8) and scoring defense (18.0). UCA is second in the nation among FCS teams in rushing defense. UCA’s offense, led by junior quarterback Hayden Hildebrand, is also putting up big numbers. The Bears are second in the conference in scoring offense (38.3 points per game), second in rushing offense (235.5) and second in total offense (476.8).
Senior wide receiver Jatavious Wilson is No. 1 in the SLC in receiving yards per game (92.0) and second in receptions per game (5.8). He also leads the conference in all-purpose yards at 134.2 per game after breaking the UCA career record for all-purpose yards last week against McNeese. Wilson now has 4,857 yards for his career, breaking the mark of Hosea Knowlton (1990-93).
Wilson also became the school’s career leader in kickoff return yards earlier this season with 2,483, and is now just three returns behind career leader Isaiah Jackson, who had 106 during his career from 2008-11.
UCA has won 14 consecutive homecoming games, including last year’s 21-16 win over Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears are 25-6 at home on “The Stripes” since the installation of the purple and gray turf in 2011. UCA has beaten Lamar twice at home since the Cardinals brought back their program in 2010.
The game will be on ESPN3 as well The Bear 91.3 and The Point 94.1 with Justin Acri and Chris Kane.