MAGNOLIA — It was an eerie situation Saturday afternoon as Arkansas-Monticello experienced a form of déjà vu in their 44-20 loss to Southern Arkansas at Wilkins Stadium for its third straight loss this season.
UAM (5-6, 4-6 GAC) began its season finale much like they did last week, scoring on their first possession, capping a 79-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by third-string quarterback Brett Courville and taking a 7-0 lead with 10:39 left in the first quarter.
But much like last week, where the Boll Weevils managed 66 yards on their opening drive but just 148 yards for the rest of the game; UAM managed just 126 total yards for the rest of the game.
“I thought we had a good game plan,” UAM head coach Hud Jackson said. “I thought there were some questionable calls there that could have kept some drives going — especially early in the game.
“… It just seems like how the last three weeks have been going offensively. We got to be able to make those plays. Got to make those conversions and got to hold on to the ball.
“It is just very frustrating.”
After UAM took their 7-0 lead, SAU (6-4, 6-4) rattled off 17 straight points including 10 first-half points to lead 10-7 at halftime.
SAU managed 448 total yards of offense — including 326 yards on the ground. Mark Johnson led the Muleriders with 219 yards on 42 carries with three touchdowns. It is the first time this season, Johnson has rushed for over 200 yards in a single game.
UAM sophomore Trey Taylor got his first start at quarterback this season but he rolled his ankle on the Weevils’ opening drive and was unable to continue.
“I just thought they were giving us stuff where we could get to the edge,” Jackson said. “Felt like we could have run the ball a little bit with our quarterbacks.
“(Taylor) rolled his ankle on like the second play and it took us out of it a little bit.”
Courville made his first appearance since Oct. 19 and finished the game with 74 yards on 16 carries with one touchdown. He was also 4-of-8 for 27 yards and an interception.
“When you get to that point offensively, you are trying to find some things that work,” Jackson said. “… We were just trying to find something that would work and go in there and give us a spark.
“It just didn’t happen.”
After converting just 2 out of 16 third downs last week against Ouachita Baptist, UAM was 3-of-5 on third down in the loss to SAU. It is the second straight year in which the Muleriders have won the Battle of the Timberlands.
Once again, UAM’s defense played well — allowing just 10 points in the first half — but without an offense converting third downs, the Weevils were backed into a corner they couldn’t escape.
“Our defense played good, but they were just on the field way too much,” Jackson said. “They played a tremendous game. They just got better and better as the year went on.
“… When you play that many plays on defense, sooner or later it is going to break down. But they played hard. They played tremendous.”
Tempers and frustrations came to a boil about midway through the fourth quarter.
Sophomore defensive linebacker LeDarius Osborne was ejected from the game following back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties — the first of which was a facemask.
“Our guys don’t react the way they reacted,” Jackson said. “I just don’t understand. … That’s not typical of our team.
“The guys played with a lot of emotion and I was very disappointed on that end. But by no means, am I blaming my team.
“It is frustrating because you hate for it to end like that.”
After SAU picked up a first down on Osborne’s second unsportsmanlike penalty, UAM was charged with unsportsmanlike penalties on back-to-back plays. The first was on Davis Stephens and the second was on Calvin Ursin.
SAU scored four players later on a 1-yard rush by running back Karon Dismuke. It gave the Muleriders a 38-13 lead with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter.
“That’s not typical of us,” Jackson said. “Unsportsmanlike conduct? When have we ever had one of those?
“That part was frustrating, but that’s just not us.”
UAM got within one possession in the third quarter when Mike Early returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked but the Weevils only trailed 17-13 with 7:40 left in the quarter.
However, Zikerious Ware returned the following kickoff 62 yards to the UAM 33 and Tyler Sykora capitalized with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Chris Terry. SAU took a 24-13 lead with 4:36 left in the third quarter.
Sykora finished 9-of-19 for 122 yards with one touchdown.
UAM sophomore running back Nick Williams scored on a 14-yard run with 1:54 left for the game’s final points.