SFA’s senior football players went out with a bang as the Lumberjack football team defeated the defending Southland co-champions, the University of the Incarnate Word Cardinals, 31-24 on Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium.
It’s SFA’s first win since the Sept. 28 matchup with Lamar University. The Jacks improve to 2-8 overall and a 2-5 SLC record.
On the second play of the game, SFA’s freshman cornerback Willie Roberts intercepted sophomore quarterback Jon Copeland’s pass and returned it 21 yards to the UIW 34. SFA’s senior running back Thomas Hutchings punched it in six plays later on a two-yard dash to the end zone to give the Jacks the early 7-0 lead. It was the former walk-on’s first rushing touchdown of the season.
Both teams traded punts on their next two possessions. The Jacks regained momentum after a third-down stop was made by redshirt freshman defensive end Amad Murray after sacking Copeland. This forced UIW to punt, but it sailed out of bounds to their own 29-yard line which put the Jacks in good field position.
As a result, SFA found the end zone again as redshirt freshman quarterback Cam Arnold kept it on the option keeper for a 20-yard score near the end of the first quarter. The Cypress native had five carries for 40 yards in the first half and went 15-22 for 202 yards.
The Cardinals got their first points of the game after a snap sailed over Arnold’s head and was recovered in the end zone by senior defensive tackle Lukas Termin which cut the Cardinal’s deficit to 14-7 with 12:46 left in the second quarter. With the turnover, UIW extended its streak of consecutive games forcing a turnover to 22.
After forcing SFA to punt, the Cardinals tied the game after a nine-play 61-yard drive resulted in a Copeland one-yard touchdown run with 8:18 left in the first half. SFA tried to answer on the following drive, but Arnold was fumbled, forced by TJ Wright, and was recovered by sophomore linebacker/defensive end Kelechi Anyalebechi.
The Cardinals took their first lead of the game toward the end of the second quarter after an eight play 87-yard drive resulted in Copeland connecting with sophomore receiver Jaelin Campbell with 30 seconds left. The signal caller passed for 349 yards which made it his fifth 300- plus passing performance this season.
The Jacks tried to answer back, but Arnold’s Hail Mary pass was intercepted by redshirt junior linebacker Jerick Pitre to close out the first half of play.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Jacks marched down the field in nine plays which resulted in Hutchings scoring his second touchdown on a 21-yard dash to tie the game at 21-21 with 11:26 remaining in the third quarter. The Cedar Park native ran 20 times for 74 yard and had two receptions for nine yards.
The Cardinals drove down to the SFA 25-yard line on their next possession, but freshman kicker Carson Mohr missed the 42-yard field goal attempt. Both the Jacks and Cardinals traded punts on each of their next two possessions going into the fourth quarter with the score remaining 21-21.
After forcing UIW to punt, SFA broke the tie as Arnold connected with freshman phenom receiver Xavier Gipson on a deep 70-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-21 with 13:26 left in the game. Gipson now needs 230 more yards to tie former Lumberjack Gralyn Crawford for the 10th-most receiving yards in a single season.
The Jacks extended their lead to 31-21 after senior kicker Storm Ruiz made a 38-yard field goal with 7:27 left in the contest. With 5:19 remaining, the Cardinals cut their deficit to seven after a successful 32-yard field goal attempt by Mohr made the score 31-24.
SFA was forced to punt on the ensuing drive, but the defense prevented UIW from scoring as it held them in six plays with 2:02 left in the game. The Cardinals forced the Jacks to punt, but Max Quick and the punt team downed it inside the UIW one-yard line. Six plays later, junior nickel Eli Jones intercepted Copeland’s pass on the last play of the game to seal the deal for the Jacks.
SFA returns to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, as they travel to Conway, Arkansas, for a matchup against the University of Central Arkansas Bears. The game can be heard on Q107.7.