Late field goals trip grid Bears, 16-14
The Central Arkansas Bears got two fourth-quarter field goals and played rock-ribbed defense all night to come up with a 16-14 victory over the Missouri State Bears in non-conference football action Saturday night in Conway, Ark.
Stymied on offense throughout the game, the MSU Bears struck with lightning quickness late in the third quarter. Trailing 10-0, the Bears got an 88-yard punt return from KR Eric Davis to get onto the scoreboard with 5:27 left in the period. After the ensuing kickoff, Missouri State S Mike Radon smothered a pass on UCA’s first play from scrimmage and returned the interception 21 yards for a touchdown. With 4:12 left in the quarter, the Bears were ahead, 14-10.
UCA’s James Paul added a 25-yard field goal a minute into the fourth period and nailed a 52-yarder with 5:49 left in the game to give UCA its final margin. The Bears had the ball twice after UCA got within 14-13 and twice more after UCA took the lead but were forced to punt three times and ran out of time with the ball when the game ended.
Central Arkansas got Paul’s first field goal late in the first period to cap a 15-play drive and UCA got its only touchdown of the game with 7:24 left in the second period when Olen Whitely scored on a one-yard run to cap a 12-play drive.
The MSU Bears fell to 1-2 for the year and saw the end to their string of 17 straight non-conference wins against teams below the Division I-A level, a string which had lasted since 2000. UCA, now 2-1, held the Bears to 96 yards in total offense, the first time a Missouri State team has had fewer than 100 total yards since the 2000 season opener at Arkansas.
The punt return TD by Davis was the longest punt return in school history by a wide margin. The previous record of 71 yards was set by Chuck Calhoun in 1991 vs. Western Illinois. The TD by Davis was also the first for the Bears on a punt return since a runback by Lee Baker in 2005 against Quincy.
Radon’s interception was his second of the season and the fourth of his career for the Bears. Radon was a quarterback in 2003, redshirted in 2004 and has played in the secondary since 2005.
Saturday’s game marked the first time Missouri State has had two return touchdowns in the same game since 2002 vs. Youngstown State when Darryl Robinson (pass interception) and Kailan Williams (fumble recovery) had return scores in a game for the Bears.
Missouri State returns to Springfield to start a two-game homestand next week. The Bears host Sam Houston State Saturday (Sept. 23) at 6 p.m. at Plaster Field in the Bears’ last non-league game of the year and then host Youngstown State Sept. 30 in the Gateway Football Conference opener.