CONWAY -- The University of Central Arkansas Bears fell flat Saturday against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, and in the process, dropped out of sole possession of first place in the Southland Conference.
The No. 6/7 Bears were held scoreless at home for the first time since 1986 and overall for the first time since 1995, falling 34-0 to the second-place Lions at First Security Field at Estes Stadium. The loss broke a four-game winning streak by the Bears (7-3, 5-2) and dropped them into a four-way tie for first place with SLU, Sam Houston State and Nicholls.
The Bears were out of sync on both offense and defense all day long, allowing 490 yards of offense by the Lions and finishing with a season-low 261 yards and 13 first downs themselves. The Lions dominated time of possession, with a 38:08 to 21:52 advantage. SLU junior backup quarterback Cole Kelley, a transfer from the University of Arkansas, had four rushing touchdowns of 9, 2, 2 and 1 yards, and also passed 6 yards to Javon Conner for the game's other score.
The Bears never found the end zone, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. Sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith, the SLC Offensive Player of the Week the past two weeks, completed 17 of 39 passes for 193 yards and three interceptions and did not have a touchdown pass for just the second time this season.
The Bears punted on seven possessions, missed a field goal, fumbled once and were intercepted three times. UCA, which had six comeback victories on the season and was coming off a 45-17 victory over Lamar last week, had no such answer for the Lions on Saturday.
SLU (6-3, 5-2) opened the scoring with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended in Kelley's first touchdown, a 9-yard run with 5:52 left in the first quarter. They scored twice more in the second quarter on drives of 80 and 91 yards, the latter a 16-play trek that took 8:45 off the clock and gave the Lions a 21-0 halftime lead.
Smith was intercepted on UCA's opening possession of the second half but UCA escaped the miscue _ at least briefly _ when Juan Jackson forced a Kelley fumble just before he crossed the goal line and Davis Harrison recovered for the Bears. However, SLU intercepted Smith again on the very next play and quickly drove 23 yards for another touchdown. UCA's Austin Norris blocked the point-after attempt, leaving the margin at 27-0 with 7:30 remaining in the third period.
Kelley added one final score on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to set the winning margin. From there, UCA's last three possessions ended on downs at midfield, a punt and the last interception.
Kelley, who relieved starter Chason Virgil late in the first quarter, completed 20 of 24 passes for 273 yards and rushed for 39 yards. UCA's defense recorded 12 tackles for loss but could not keep the Lions out of the end zone once they got in the red zone. SLU scored on five of six chances inside the 20-yard line, despite converting only 2 of 12 third downs.
UCA freshman wide receiver Tyler Hudson, coming off a career high three touchdown receptions in last week's win over Lamar, caught one pass for 25 yards. Junior Dwight Blakey led the Bears with four catches for 42 yards, while D'erek Fernandez topped the rushing chart with three carries for 34 yards.
The Bears continue their homestand next Saturday, hosting Stephen F. Austin at 3 p.m. for the final regular-season home game of the season.