Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor
The 15th-ranked University of Central Arkansas Bears lived up to their ranking Saturday night when they handily defeated Murray State by a score of 41-13.
The Racers came into the game as 11 point underdogs against the Bears. The game came as a major change of pace for a Racer team that clinched a 67-7 win in their season-opener against Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Murray State struggled to hit their stride early while the Bears came out firing, jumping out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. They went on to score 24 unanswered points before Murray State could get on the board. The succeeding quarters spelled more of the same for the Racers, although junior kicker Gabriel Vicente attempted to help his team’s case with two field goals in the second quarter.
But Vicente’s performance was the lone scoring for the Racers in the second, as Central Arkansas continued their attack to close the first half 31-6.
In the second half, the Racers attempted to limit Central Arkansas’ offense, holding them to one touchdown in the third quarter and a field goal in the fourth. L.J. Gainey helped narrow the deficit in the fourth off of a 25-yard touchdown catch, but it was too little, too late, as the Racers dropped their first game of the year 41-13 against a top-ranked FCS opponent.
Senior quarterback Hayden Hildebrand won the quarterback battle on the night against junior Shuler Bentley by finishing with 286 passing yards and three touchdowns. Bentley finished the game with 232 passing yards and a touchdown. Bentley said there was nothing significant to take from Friday’s game, grading his team’s performance poorly.
“I give ourselves an ‘L’ because we lost,” Bentley said. “There’s no such thing as pulling good things out of a loss, I don’t believe in that. We came up short, but I do know that we’re going to bounce back because we believe we have the capability of being a good football team.”
In a night where there wasn’t much to be optimistic about for Murray State, Head Coach Mitch Stewart said his kicker, Vicente, shined bright in his second ever football game.
The field goals were the one bright spot,” Stewart said. “I’m very proud of Gabe, he’s kicking it very very well right now, so that’s the one positive. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re up to the task.”
Racer football will look to bounce back when they hit the field at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Missouri State University.