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Central Arkansas dismantles Incarnate Word 56-10, wins share of conference title

Brandon Cox vs. Incarnate Word (UCA Athletics)

Juan Jackson intercepted Taylor Laird pass on the first play of the game and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown and Central Arkansas never looked back in a 56-10 victory over Incarnate Word on Saturday night.

With the win, the No. 3 Bears earned at least a share of the 2017 Southland Conference championship. They improved to 9-1 overall and 8-0 in league play, with one game remaining. Both Sam Houston State and Nicholls State already have one loss, so the worst the Bears could finish would be tied for first place.

“Southland Conference champions, that does have a good little ring to it," said UCA head coach Steve Campbell, who led the Bears into the third round of the FCS Playoffs a year ago. "I told the guys, you sewed up a ring tonight. Now, what’s that ring gonna say, it can either say 8-1 or it can say 9-0. Let’s make sure it says 9-0.

“Very, very proud of the guys. We were close last year, and they guys kept fighting and scratching and clawing, and they never doubted and they believed we could get here. And we’re here now."

Hayden Hildebrand dominated the first half, completing 16 of his first 19 passes for 194 yards and three TDs as the Bears (9-1, 8-0 Southland Conference) opened a 42-3 lead at halftime. Hildebrand had two TD passes to Brandon Cox in the second quarter. Cox finished with five receptions for 108 yards and the two scores.

Central Arkansas also had success on the ground in the first half as Carlos Blackman ran for 56 yards and a score on five carries and Kierr Crossley chipped in with 51 yards and a TD on seven totes. Cedric Battle added a 20-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. The trio combined for 200 yards on 30 carries.

Hildebrand finished with 226 yards on 20-of-30 passing.

Laird hit Breylann McCollum for a 49-yard score in the final quarter to cap the scoring for the Cardinals (1-9, 1-7).

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