With a touch of pink, University of Central Arkansas running back Brent Grimes made a group of Colonels really blue Saturday night.
Grimes, UCA’s senior running back, had the perfect homecoming game and made the appropriate October statement in the process.
Playing one half and a series, Grimes rushed for a career-high 155 yards on 11 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Bears ran roughshod over Nicholls State 42-13 before a highly entertained homecoming crowd of 10,653 at First Security Field at Estes Stadium. He won the L.B. Jackman Award as the outstanding player in the homecoming game, an honor he also won three years ago as a freshman.
He did it wearing pink-stripe socks, pink shoelaces and a pink towel in his pocket.
"Cancer has hit my family twice," Grimes said. "It wasn’t breast cancer, but it was cancer. I wanted to do something to support the whole cause."
He had scoring runs of 36, 18 and 42 yards, putting him one short of the all-time school rushing touchdown record held by Kendel Rogers. His 14.1 average for a game was the fourth best in school history.
"Our offensive line, fullbacks and tight ends were outstanding," he said. "A couple of those runs, I didn’t get touched. When I scored, I turned around and gave the credit to those guys."
The Bears (5-2, 2-1) avenged their only conference defeat of last season (20-17 at Thibodaux) and came back bigtime from a home loss last week against Stephen F. Austin. Nicholls fell to 1-6, 0-3 in conference.
The Bears amassed a season-best 545 total yards and it could have been more had the UCA coaches not freely substituted the second half after UCA took a 42-6 lead after the third quarter. They had 405 by halftime, 241 passing and 164 rushing. The Bears played three quarterbacks, five running backs carried the ball and 10 receivers caught it.
UCA had four plays of more than 40 yards and four more of more than 20.
"That (the big plays) was what we didn’t do last year," said UCA coach Clint Conque. "We got what we wanted when their safeties had to commit to the run. That gave us man coverage in the secondary and we took advantage of that.
"I was pleased with all faces but when the reserves get in the game you hope to not have as much of a dropoff in production. It got disjointed. But that’s why there are 1’s and there are 2’s."
The Bears struggled on offense until the final moments last year.
"I thought we blocked extremely well up front tonight," Conque said. "Our backs were more patient in seeing the creases. And we created creases for them. If you can get the coverage in man defense committed one way and a back gets past the first level, you’re in grass and space."
Starting quarterback Robbie Park, 11 of 16, took full advantage of the Colonels’ man coverage in the secondary in passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns the first half. He finished 12 of 20 for 245 yards. He connected on scoring tosses of 35 yards to Dominque Croom and 42 yards to James Lovett. The pass to Croom was on the money on a deep post. He connected with Lovett on a third-and-five play with 45 seconds left in the half and the UCA receiver made a sharp reverse to turn it into a touchdown that gave UCA a 35-6 lead at the half.
"That pass to Croom was a great read," Conque said.
Ceaser, who rushed for 67 yards, added a 7-yard scoring run in a first half totally dominated by UCA on both sides of the ball.
Nicholls, an option team, scored on a 41-yard pass from LaQuint Caston to Anton Robinson on a busted coverage by UCA in the first quarter and a 42-yard run by Robinson with 9:51 left.
Nathan Dick and Trae Cook also saw action at quarterback with Cook completing two passes.
Twenty-four players made tackles for UCA on defense.
"It was one of their most complete games as far as the first unit," Grimes said. "For the first time, we came out the second half and really took it to an opponent."
"We came out from the beginning and played with the intensity with the first group you like," Conque said.
The Bears travel to Hammond, La., next week to play Southeastern Louisiana, which sustained its first Southland Conference defeat to McNeese State on Saturday night.