Football Goes Above .500, Defeats HBU 43-7

The Central Arkansas Bears maintained their hot streak with a 43-7 win against the Houston Baptist Huskies on the road Oct. 10, leaving them 3-0 in Southland Conference play.
The win was chalked to a combination of consistent offense, strong defense and big playmaking for the Bears.
One of those critical plays belonged to sophomore wide receiver Brandon Cox, who returned a 93-yard punt return with under two minutes left to play in the first quarter and nearly set a new school record.
Cox’s punt return was the second longest in UCA history, just shy of UCA Sports Hall of Famer John Simmons’ 97-yard punt return against Ozark University on Oct. 8, 1960.
Sophomore running back Dominique Thomas added a touchdown before the Huskies got on the board with an 18-yard pass from Huskies sophomore quarterback Max Staver with 2:26 left in the half.
Senior running back Blake Veasley shut down the half with a 6-yard touchdown with 1:01 left to play in the half.
UCA was up 26-7 at halftime, with 281 offensive yards. The Bears ran 32 plays in the first half and averaged 8.7 yards per play.
Thomas earned 82 yards and a touchdown, roping in a 6-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Haydn Hildebrand in the first half.
Hildebrand was 10 for 12, passing for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Veasley scored again with an 11-yard touchdown reception halfway through the third quarter.
Hildebrand linked up with sophomore receiver Roman Gordon from the 12-yard line to put up a 40-7 lead.
Senior kicker Jace Denker set the final score with a 22-yard field goal with just over a minute left in the game.
Hildbrand attributed part of the win to the strength and consistency of the UCA offensive line and the skill of his running backs.
“We just wanted to focus on sticking to our game plan, running the ball hard and getting out with a win,” he said. “[The] offensive line blocked well all game and that always increases your chances of winning, no matter who you’re playing.”
Thomas ran for 119 yards on 18 carries and caught two passes for 24 yards.
Hildebrand completed 19 of 24 passes for a career-high 274 yards and four touchdowns. Hildebrand also turned out a career-high with his four touchdowns and led the Bears to finish with 505 total offensive yards for the second time in three games.
Sophomore running back Dominique Thomas was UCA’s offensive utility player, rushing and receiving touchdowns for UCA.
Veasly and Gordon each contributed to the Bears’ lead with Veasley’s two touchdown catches and Gordon’s first catch and touchdown as a Bear.
The UCA defense had 13 tackles for a loss against the Huskies with six sacks. They held Houston Baptist to minus nine rushing yards all game.
The offense kept its momentum going, going four for six in touchdowns in its first six possessions.
Senior defensive end Derek Floyd sacked twice. His counterpart, senior Jonathan Woodard, added 1.5 sacks.
Hildebrand feels confident with the way the defense has been supporting the offensive success in the past few games.
“The defense has played excellent lately, and if they keep playing that way it will be tough to beat us,” he said. This week we’re happy to be back at home. McNeese is a really good team, so we will have to be ready to play. But we will head into this game just like any other game and hopefully come out still undefeated in conference.”
UCA returns home to Estes Stadium for the Red Beans & Rice Bowl against the McNeese State Cowboys at 6 p.m. Oct. 17.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 14, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
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