Lumberjacks aim to tame UCA Bears

SFA Quarterback Foster Sawyer attempts a pass during the 93rd Battle of the Piney Woods that was held Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston. SFA will battle UCA at 2 p.m. Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium.

Fresh off their 33-point loss to the Sam Houston State University Bearkats in the 93rd Battle of the Piney Woods, the SFA Lumberjacks’ quest for a title continues as they prepare to host the high-powered University of Central Arkansas Bears in a must-win matchup Saturday afternoon between the hills of Homer Bryce Stadium.

SFA (1-4, 1-3) lost its eighth consecutive game against the Bearkats after a 23-point second quarter eruption, and miscues by the Jacks eventually led them to a 54-21 loss at NRG Stadium in Houston.

While the running game saw an improvement, the overall performance by the Jacks wasn’t where they wanted it to be. They committed three turnovers, the quarterback unit was sacked six times and the team was penalized 11 times for 150 yards.

Jeff Byrd, interim head coach, spoke about the revelation after the game.

“Anytime you turn the football over three times and give up six sacks, it’s tough,” Byrd said. “Against a good football team, those things are going to happen to you.”

SFA will turn its attention to the UCA Bears.

UCA (3-2, 2-1) is coming off a high-scoring 66-35 win over the lowly Houston Baptist Huskies. UCA currently sits fourth in the SLC standings.

UCA is the definition of a high-scoring offense. Through five games this season, they’ve scored 183 points. They average 36.6 points per game. They’ve gained 797 yards on the ground, 1,316 yards through the air and 2,113 total yards on the season.

The defensive unit allows approximately 29 points per game, and opponents have scored a combined 145 points against them this season. They’ve allowed 103 first downs, 682 yards on the ground and 1,445 yards through the air for a combined 2,127 yards of total offense.

Breylin Smith, UCA quarterback, has thrown for 1,009 yards on 77-112 attempts. He’s thrown six touchdowns, and one interception and has a QB efficiency rating of 160.32 through four games this season. Luke Hales, backup quarterback, threw for 304 yards, five touchdowns and one interception during his one game appearance this season.

Carlos Blackman, running back, has been giving the SLC fits throughout his career with his uncanny running ability. This season is no different. Through five games, he’s rushed for 382 yards, five touchdowns on 88 carries and he averages 76 yards per game. Additionally, UCA has three wide outs that have 300-plus yards receiving on the season, and two of them have four touchdowns apiece.

For the third week in a row, SFA will face an offense that’s prone to scoring big points in short periods of time. Defense has been the key to keeping the game close, but the offensive unit has never been able to match the defensive efforts. The first quarter of the Sam Houston game last weekend was the first time all season that the SFA offense moved the ball with purpose on a consistent basis.

The SFA offensive unit has to have long and productive drives to win this game. One way to keep a high-powered offense from scoring is keeping them off the field. The Lumberjacks leads the SLC in time of possession, and they need to use that to their full advantage in this game. The running game was effective during the Sam game, and it will have to improve for this contest so SFA can burn time off the clock.

If SFA can have long drives that result in points, the SFA defense will be able to make stops and force turnovers, which will create more opportunities for the Jacks to blow the game up.

SFA can’t afford to lose three consecutive games in conference play, so a full week of practice, preparation and execution will play a part in how this game plays out.

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on Eleven Sports and streamed live on the Southland Digital Network.

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