COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — At the beginning of the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, the Tennessee Tech band broke out in "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."
Black Saturday for the Golden Eagles. Might as well getting into the Christmas spirit.
The University of Central Arkansas pep band needed to try "Sleigh Bells."
With the victory 34-14 victory over Tennessee Tech, the Bears are headed next weekend for the mountains of Montana to take on the University of Montana in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The Bears, who have won eight straight, didn’t slide into the next round. They revved up the plow.
The Bears knocked the Golden Eagles around at the line of scrimmage and that decided things early.
They controlled the line, milked the clock and ground the Eagles.
On their second possession, the Bears took 17 plays and 8:28 to drive 77 yards for a touchdown against a gusty wind.
Right before the half, they drove 97 yards for a touchdown in which they gained control of the game for good.
They took 13 plays to drive 58 yards to a field goal on their first possession of the second half. They added an 87-yard scoring drive.
And, they reached into their usual bag of big plays, a 51-yard pass from Nathan Dick to set up one touchdown and a 42-yard pass from Dick to an all-alone Jesse Grandy for another touchdown.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles, primarily a running team with a dangerous receiver, had a net of 11 yards rushing. They finished with 58 on 28 tries.
"What impressed me the most was the way their defense dominated us," Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown said. "We were averaging more than 200 yards a game, and we had trouble getting to the line of scrimmage.
"Their lines dominated us on both sides. We haven’t been dominated like that. Their offensive line opened up their running game and they were able to get big plays with wide-open receivers off play-action. It’s easy to get big passing plays when you run the ball well.
"Everything came down to domination at the line."
"The key was being able to mix it up," UCA coach Clint Conque said.
For a historic appearance on an NCAA stage, the Bears were magnificently in gear.
Dick orchestrated one of the Bears’ most efficient and effective efforts in recent history, completing 23 of 29 passes for 319 yards, eight straight on the 17-play drive.
UCA’s offensive line was as good as it has been all season. Four backs combined for 120 yards. Ten receivers caught passes.
The defense got penetrated for negative plays in key situations.
"We stayed in front of the chains and kept them behind them," Conque said.
The special teams produced a fumble on a kickoff return that led to a field goal.
"Central Arkansas is a very good football team," Brown said. "I was impressed with everything about them."
At game’s end, the UCA pep band chanted, "Warm up the bus for Montana."
The Bears are already hot.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235)