The UCA Bears football team scored 19 points in the second half to come back and defeat the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks 26-24 Saturday.
The game served as coach Steve Campbell’s first win with the Bears.
Campbell said it felt great to get the first win under his belt here.
UCA (1-1) started the opening drive at its 19-yard line after a short kick from UTM (0-2) junior kicker Jackson Redditt.
The Bears were unable to move the ball after a couple of short passes by junior quarterback Taylor Reed and a rush by junior wide receiver Jatavious Wilson and was forced to punt.
The Skyhawks took over at its 45-yard line after a 13-yard return by senior wide receiver William Tanner. UTM gained a first down on the first play of the drive on a 16- yard pass from junior quarterback Jarod Neal to sophomore wide receiver Kyle Kerrick to UCA’s 39- yard line.
The Bears’ defense stepped up to put an end to the Skyhawks’ drive and forced a failed fourth down attempt by UTM to take possession at its 35-yard line.
UCA took the 7-0 lead on a 6-yard pass from Reed to junior running back Blake Veasley and an extra point from junior kicker Jace Denker. This would be the Bears’ final score of the half.
Reed completed three of five passes for 28 yards and ran for 45 yards. Senior running back Willie Matthews ran for 12 yards and fumbled once on the drive.
The drive spanned 10 plays for 95 yards.
The Skyhawks stuck back quickly with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Neal. The extra point from Redditt tied the score at seven.
Neal completed three passes for 69 yards and was sacked for eight yards on the drive by junior defensive ends Jonathan Woodard and Derek Floyd.
Both defenses held its ground for the rest of the quarter to keep the score at 7-7.
UTM took a 14-7 lead on a 10 play, 80-yard drive that ended on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Neal to Kerrick. Neal completed four of five passes for 54 yards. He also had a 25-yard carry on the drive.
The Skyhawks took a 14-point lead with 55 seconds left in the half on a 14-yard pass from Neal to senior wide receiver Corey Jordan. Neal was three of five on the drive for 35 yards.
Junior running back Trent Garland increased his rushing total to 27 yards after 5- and 12- yard carries on the drive. He ran for 10 yards on a previous drive that led to a punt.
The Skyhawks outgained UCA by 108 yards in the first half.
The Bears scored on its first possession of the second half on a 7-yard rush by Matthews. The touchdown made the score 21-14.
Matthews ran for 14 yards on three carries and Reed completed three of six passes for 55 yards.
UTM increased its lead back to 10 after a 34-yard field goal by Redditt. This was the final score of the game for the Skyhawks.
UTM Reuben Duckworth ran for 25 yards on the drive. Neal completed two of three passes on the drive for 27 yards.
UCA answered with a 34-yard field goal by Denker after a 50-yard drive to bring the score to 24-17.
Reed ran for 17 yards on the drive, but was sacked eight yards behind the line of scrimmage by Skyhawks junior defensive end Deantae Glover.
The Bears scored again on a 20-yard field goal by Denker to shrink the Skyhawks lead to four points with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Reed was unable to complete passes on the drive, so UCA moved the ball primarily on the ground, running for 30 yards.
A defensive pass interference called on UTM on a third-and-seven moved the Bears 15 yards down the field to keep the drive alive.
On the Skyhawks ensuing possession, they drove down to UCA’s 35-yard line, but the Bears were able to stop UTM from advancing farther.
A 35-yard crackback penalty, which is a block below the waist, crippled UTM.
A crackback penalty is a safety precaution for players.
The Skyhawks were forced to punt with three minutes and 20 seconds left.
The Bears took over at its 20- yard line after a touchback on the punt.
Senior quarterback Ryan Howard was substituted in for Reed and completed a pass to sophomore wide receiver Desmond Smith for 10 yards and a first down.
Howard completed two quick passes to Matthews and senior wide receiver Damien Watts for 10 and five yards respectively to get down to the UCA 45-yard line.
Matthews gained six yards to get to the UTM 49-yard line and a first down for the Bears.
Howard completed a 4-yard pass to senior wide receiver Dezmin Lewis and a 7-yard pass to Matthews to get to the Skyhawks’ 38-yard line.
Howard missed on the next three passes, with one of them being dropped by Lewis at the 10-yard line to bring a fourth down to the Bears.
UCA then received a delay of game penalty to move the Bears back to the UTM 43-yard line.
Howard said the delay of game was somewhat of a blessing.
“Thankfully, we got a delay of game, because I saw what they had defensively and they would have stopped the play we had drawn up,” he said.
UCA converted on its only fourth down attempt on a 17-yard pass to Watts to move the Bears to the Skyhawks’ 26-yard line.
Howard completed a 12-yard line to Matthews.
UTM called a timeout to adjust defensive schemes to the more pass effecient offense UCA was playing the final quarter.
Howard threw the game-winning touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Courtney Whitehead bringing the score to 26-24.
Campbell said Ryan made a “big time football play” and said he was as “cool as a cucumber” with that play.
Denker missed the extra point, keeping the Skyhawks chances of winning the game during their next possession alive.
Denker kicked the ball down the UTM 5-yard line, which was returned 15 yards by sophomore running back Ladevin Fair.
Neal threw a pass to his go-to receiver of the game, Kerrick, but missed the completion.
The Skyhawks drew up a pass on the next play, but it was picked off by UCA sophomore defensive back Bobby Watkins to seal the game’s fate.
Watkins explained the last defensive play for the Bears.
“My job was to reroute the wide receiver and the outside receiver ran a comeback and I was there,” he said.
Reed led the game with 74 yards rushing on 10 attempts and throwing 157 yards on 18 completions.
Smith led the Bears in receiving with 56 yards on five receptions.
Neal completed 20 of his 28 passes for 276 yards and ran for 42 yards on six carries.
Kerrick led UTM in receiving with 150 yards on nine receptions.
UCA will travel to Bozeman, Montana to take on the No. 4 Montana State University Bobcats at 4 p.m. Sept. 13.