SEARCY — The road blues for Arkansas-Monticello continued Saturday as the Boll Weevils lost 63-30 to Harding University at First Security Stadium.
“I wish I had an answer for that,” UAM (3-3, 3-3 Great American Conference) head coach Hud Jackson said. “I have no idea why we struggle on the freaking road, but I am tired of it.”
Harding (4-1, 4-1) put up 582 yards of total offense — including 484 yards on the ground.
“Like I told you before it is a responsibility,” Jackson said. “It is the responsibility of our defense to make the plays and keep us in the game.”
Jackson did say he was proud of the effort in the second half. UAM allowed just two touchdowns in the second half — one of which was an interception returned for a touchdown.
Harding’s Vanard Placide returned an interception 65-yards for a touchdown with 11:20 left in the fourth quarter and it gave Harding a 56-20 lead. Placide was then ejected following two unsportsmanlike penalties — celebrating in the end zone and taking off his helmet.
Harding’s second touchdown of the second half came with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter.
After UAM failed to recover its onside kick attempt, Harding’s Jacob Moore scored on a 1-yard touchdown run three plays later. It gave the Bison a 63-23 lead.
Romo Westbrook led Harding with 106 yards on six carries and a touchdown. D’Nico Jackson-Best chipped in with 71 yards on 13 carries. Harding had 11 different players with carries.
Harding quarterback Keenan Kellett rushed for four touchdowns — all in the first half — and was 4 of 4 passing for 108 yards.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Harding,” Jackson said. “They are well-coached and very disciplined.
“We just couldn’t step up and make the plays to stop them. I thought we did a better job in the second (half) and hopefully we can build off that into next week.”
Jackson said its not that his team was unprepared for the option plays Harding ran but that it is hard to prepare for that in “just one week.”
“Harding does a good job executing when they need to,” Jackson said.
The Weevils only touchdown in the first half was a fumble recovery by George Alvarez. He picked up the loose ball and ran it back 12-yards for a touchdown. It gave UAM a 10-7 lead with 9:10 left in the first quarter.
After UAM took the three-point lead, Harding answered with back-to-back touchdowns from Kellett to take a 21-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
For the second week in a row, Dumas native Rod Smith led the Weevils on the ground. He finished 85 yards on 33 carries with two touchdowns.
“It was a dog fight early,” Smith said. “But a couple of mistakes and some bad snaps, and the game kind of got away from us.”
Smith’s first touchdown came in the third quarter. He scored on a 5-yard touchdown run and it trimmed Harding’s lead to 49-20 with 2:38 left in the game.
Smith scored again late in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run for the final score of the game.
“A win would have definitely made that look better,” Smith said referring to his individual stats. “But I have to give a lot of credit to our offensive line.
“I am their biggest fan and I am really pulling for them. They do a good job for us.”
UAM continues to play musical chairs at the quarterback position but it did not pay off as well as it has in its home games.
Starter Colton Morrison finished 7-of-13 for 84 yards and backup Cody Trimble finished 8-of-17 with 85 yards with one interception.
Freshman quarterback Brett Courville had nine carries for 28 yards and finished 2-of-7 for 39 yards passing.
Freshman kicker Jamie McGee made three field goals in the loss to Harding. He made a 29-yarder in the first quarter, a 33-yarder in the second quarter and a 21-yarder in the fourth quarter.
“I was really proud of our special teams tonight,” Jackson said. “Jamie is a good kicker and probably in one of the games later this season, he will win a game or two for us.”
Jamal Nixon had 214 return yards on six attempts and caught three passes for 17 yards. Skyler Scott had five catches for 95 yards to lead the Weevils.
UAM returns home next week for a nonconference game against Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.).