The No. 25 Sam Houston State University Bearkats blew a 16-point halftime lead in Conway as they lost 29-25 to the No. 10 University of Arkansas Bears.
This year marked the fifth consecutive season that these two teams matched up both ranked in the Top-25. SHSU’s defense was coming off a Week 8 shutout against then-No. 9 Nicholls and kept the ball rolling with a scoreless first half at UCA.
Not only did the Kats defense force a three-and-out with a total of -8 yards on UCA’s first drive, but the offense immediately took advantage of the great field position on the ensuing possession as sophomore running back Donovan Williams punched it in from 10 yards out.
The remainder of the first quarter ran out quickly, but UCA decided to take a shot early in the second quarter. With 13:34 on the clock, the Bears tried to go deep, but Jaylen Thomas picked it off in the corner of the end zone.
Ty Brock got into a groove after the takeaway, finding senior receiver Nathan Stewart 33 yards downfield on the first play to get across midfield. Another 20-yard pitch-and-catch to Stewart put SHSU in the red zone, but the drive came up empty when Stewart was hit hard and could not corral a potential touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal. Head coach K.C. Keeler’s decision to go for it likely was not a difficult one, though, as despite the turnover on downs the Bears still had a 98-yard field in front of them.
SHSU’s defense made its mark again with 6:32 left in the opening half when freshman lineman Jevon Leon forced a fumble that led to a safety to push the Kats’ lead to 9-0. Brock struck again with nine seconds left in the half when he found junior Brennon Tibbs for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give the Bearkats a 16-0 lead heading into halftime.
UCA came out the locker room with a five-play drive that was the first touchdown allowed by SHSU’s defense in 13 consecutive quarters of regulation.
With 7:52 left in the third quarter, Brock found Stewart for a huge 32-yard gain as part of a seven-play, 55-yard drive that was capped off by Williams’s second rushing touchdown of the game that swelled SHSU’s lead to 22-7. The Bears immediately answered, however, with a 53-yard touchdown pass that trimmed the deficit to 22-14.
That score held until 8:36 in the fourth quarter when a 28-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion by UCA tied the game at 22.
SHSU regained a 25-22 lead with a 42-yard field goal by junior Hunter Pinegar with just over five minutes left, but it did not last long as UCA marched 67 yards on four plays to jump in front 29-25 with 3:57 remaining in the game.
On 4th-and-10 with one minute left, Brock connected with Stewart for a 20-yard completion that kept the drive and the game alive. A trick play on first down with a pair of completions from Ryan Humphries to Brock and back to Humphries picked up eight yards, and Williams ran for five yards to pick up a first down at the UCA 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. The next play spelled absolute disaster as Brock fumbled in the pocket and Bears sophomore defensive end J.W. Jones pounced on it to seal the comeback victory for UCA.
SHSU dropped to 4-2 against Southland Conference opponents and will have a bye week before traveling to Abilene Christian University Nov. 9.