CONWAY -- Central Arkansas survived a lightning delay, three turnovers and a feisty Murray State team on Saturday to take a 26-13 victory at a soggy First Security Field at Estes Stadium for first-year head coach Nathan Brown's first win.
Sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith completed 24 of 31 passes for 301 yards, with nine of those completions going to senior receiver Lester Wells for 158 yards, both career highs.
The Bears (1-1) led, 20-13, late in the second quarter when nearby lightning caused a delay of one hour and 13 minutes with 3:31 remaining in the first half. The sloppy conditions only got worse in the second half with Central Arkansas adding a one-yard touchdown run by junior Carlos Blackman for the only score in the final 30 minutes. The Bears reached the Murray State 8-yard line in the final minute of the game before letting the clock run out.
Central Arkansas finished the night with 444 yards of total offense despite losing a pair of fumbles and an interception. The Bears' defense held the Racers (0-2) to just 265 yards of total offense, including just 56 on the ground.
The Bears recorded 10 tackles for lost yardage, with senior tackle Eric Jackson leading the way with 2.5 for -10 yards. Senior linebacker Raphael Garner had a team-high nine tackles, including two for loss and added a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Junior safety Juan Jackson and sophomore cornerback Robert Rochell also caused Murray State fumbles. Jackson also intercepted a Drew Anderson pass in the end zone that thwarted a potential second-quarter scoring drive for the Racers.
Murray State lost, 49-10, to Southern Illinois (1-1) in the opener last week, but opened the scoring on Saturday with a 39-yard field goal from Gabriel Vincente with 12:13 left in the first half. Smith capped a 51-yard, eight-play scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 9:36 left in the quarter for a 7-3 lead, which they never relinquished.
Vincente connected again from 24 yards after the home defense held in the opening minute of the second period after Jackie Harvell broke up a third-down Murray State pass. Central Arkansas answered with Blackman's first one-yard touchdown but the extra point attempt was blocked after a delay of game and a poor snap. It was the team's longest scoring drive of the night, consuming 72 yards in 11 plays. The Bears finished with an advantage in time of possession with 35:13 to Murray State's 24:47.
Smith hooked up with Wells for a 25-yard touchdown strike with 7:56 left in the first half just before the weather delay. Wells, a senior from Natchez, Miss. and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, had seven receptions for 131 yards in the first half alone.
Murray State junior James Sappington hauled in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Anderson with just eighth seconds remaining in the first half to get the Racers within 20-13 at the break.
The Central Arkansas defense controlled the second half, limiting the Racers to just 68 yards of offense. Murray State's five second-half drives ended in a fumble and four consecutive punts.The fumble was forced by Jackson at the Bears' 2 after a pass completion to Sappington, with junior cornerback Trai Moseley recovering in the end zone for a touchback. Murray State was just 4 of 17 on third downs
The Bears gained 143 yards on the ground after just 82 in a loss at Tulsa (1-1) the previous week. Blackman had 62 yards on 20 carries and sophomore Kierre Crossley added 56 on just 10 attempts. Junior tight end Luke Ross caught a career-high four passes for 15 yards, the first receptions of his career after converting from linebacker.
Central Arkansas improved to 34-7 at home on "The Stripes" since the field was installed in 2011. The Bears will open Southland Conference play Saturday on the road in Hammond, La., against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions (0-2), which lost 31-0 to No. 11 LSU on Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.Sports on 09/10/2018
Print Headline: Bears outpace Racers despite conditions