The University of Central Arkansas Bears did just enough Saturday afternoon to survive a long trip to Thibodaux, La., and an ugly game.
The Bears (6-5, 3-3) made 17 first-half points stand up on the way to a 17-10 victory over Nicholls State (4-7, 1-5) at Manning Field at Guidry Stadium.
"It was a hard-fought game and we left some points on the field in the first half and we just didn’t get enough at-bats the second half," said UCA coach Clint Conque, whose team was two for five in the red zone.
The Bears, who had 365 yards of offense, only had 119 in the second half.
"And you have to give Nicholls State credit there," Conque said. "They stayed ahead of the chains and kept us off the sideline."
After Ryan Howard was stopped on fourth and one at the Nicholls 11, the Colonels drove 89 yards in 14 plays and drew within 17-10 with 46 seconds left after a 11-yard pass from Beau Hebert to Eric Buchanan.
The Bears recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.
"We thought we had a good play called (on fourth down) but they made a good play," Conque said. "If we didn’t make it, they had about 90 yards to go in not a whole lot of time. And we had just had a field goal block that was disappointing and doesn’t give you much confidence."
After the Colonels took a 3-0 early, Howard passed 7 yards to Clay Murphy for the Bears’ first touchdown with 6:02 left in the first quarter, capping a 46-yard, 10-play drive.
Eddie Camara’s 28-yard field goal gave UCA a 10-3 lead with 7:45 left in the second quarter.
UCA used its hurry-up offense nicely in the waning seconds of the first half to score what proved to be the winning touchdown — a 48-yard pass from Taylor Reed to Desmond Smith, who caught seven balls for 145 yards. The touchdown occurred with 48 seconds left in the half. UCA drove 77 yards in seven plays.
Howard completed 17 of 27 passes for 150 yards. Reed was eight of 11 for 106 yards. Willie Matthews rushed for 78 yards.
The Bears held Nicholls’ major run threat, quarterback Tuskani Figaro, to 31 yards on 14 carries. Linebackers Justin Heard had 10 tackles and Blake Childress nine.
"We didn’t cut Figaro loose for big runs and long plays like we had seen on film," Conque said. "This is always a difficult win for us in a difficult place to play."
The Bears close the season at home Saturday against Sam Houston State, which lost to Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday in what amounted to the Southland Conference title game.