College football: Sioux close with 17-16 win
CONWAY, Ark. -- Broc Bellmore had only one thought as Central Arkansas lined up for a potential game-winning field goal. "I got down in my stance and I thought about our seniors," Bellmore said. "I wanted to send those guys out the right way." Be...
CONWAY, Ark. -- Broc Bellmore had only one thought as Central Arkansas lined up for a potential game-winning field goal.
"I got down in my stance and I thought about our seniors," Bellmore said. "I wanted to send those guys out the right way."
Bellmore accomplished his goal by blocking an Eddie Carmona 43-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds remaining -- a play that sealed UND's come-from-behind 17-16 football win against Central Arkansas on Saturday before 4,239 fans at Estes Stadium.
The win was the biggest for UND since the Sioux moved up to Division I FCS competition last season. UND closed the season with a 6-5 record -- its seventh straight winning year -- and it also gave the Sioux a huge jump start for its third Division I FCS season in terms of recruiting and offseason workouts.
UND ended with five FCS wins this season, compared to two last year. The Sioux won two games on the road against the Southland Conference, which put two teams in the FCS playoffs.
"This is our biggest win as an FCS program because of all the things that went into it," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "No. 1, it was for a winning season. And, No. 2, that's a really good football team we beat. They had a great opportunity to beat two teams that reached the FCS playoffs this season."
It wasn't an easy win for the Sioux. Nor was it pretty. But it was gritty.
The Sioux defense, after giving up a touchdown on Central Arkansas' first possession, went into a bend-but-don't-break mode the rest of the game. The Bears racked up 422 yards of offense, but managed only three field goals after their first touchdown, which took less than two minutes.
UND's offense, meanwhile, struggled early but recovered enough to put two touchdowns on the board, despite gaining only 228 yards for the day.
The low-scoring game, however, had a wild finish.
Trailing 16-14, Central Arkansas punter Jonathan Beard unexpectedly tried to pick up a first down on a fake-punt attempt midway through the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-9 from the Bears' 21, Beard took off to the right. He was dropped two yards behind the line of scrimmage by Sioux safety Joel Schwenzfeier.
Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque said the fake was not called from the sideline.
"It was miscommunication," Conque said. "No one feels worse than he does."
Beard picked up a first down earlier in the game on a fake punt, but his failed second attempt set up UND's winning points.
UND took over at the Bears' 19. Jake Landry picked up a first down, but the drive stalled after the Sioux quarterback was called for intentional grounding as he attempted to elude the relentless pressure of Central Arkansas defensive ends Larry Hart and Markell Carter.
Brandon Hellevang then drilled a 34-yard field goal with 9 minutes, 33 seconds to play for a 17-16 lead. He originally made the field goal from 24 yards, but a holding penalty pushed the Sioux back 10 yards.
"Points were really hard to come by in this game," Hellevang said. "Any chance to get points was huge."
Central Arkansas had three chances to win down the stretch. The Bears drove to UND's 23 on their next possession. But Bellmore blocked a Carmona 42-yard field goal attempt with 6:08 to play.
"We were in overload so we doubled up on one guy," Bellmore said of the Sioux defensive formation. "I was just able to sneak through there. I got my right arm up there on both blocks."
After Bellmore's first block, UND turned the ball over on its first play. But the Bears, taking over at the UND 49, couldn't convert. Carmona pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt to the right side with 2:12 to go.
But the Sioux couldn't pick up a first down from their 20. Central Arkansas burned all three of its timeouts and got the ball back at its 44 with 1:47 left. Robbie Park's 28-yard pass to running back Brent Grimes left the Bears with a first down at the UND 18.
The Sioux, however, picked up a break when Central Arkansas was called for clipping, a 15-yard penalty that resulted in Carmona's potential game-winning field goal attempt being pushed back to a 43-yard attempt.
"I had my head down," Mussman said of the dramatic play. "I couldn't watch. But then I heard the thud, saw the ball and just wanted to see someone fall on it."
The block set off a wild celebration on the Sioux sideline. The celebration mirrored last year's season finale at South Dakota, where Hellevang kicked a game-winning field goal in a 34-31 overtime win.
This year's finale, however, was more dramatic, as it came against a program that has been ranked nationally for most of the past two seasons.
"That has to be one of the most exciting games I've ever played in," said Landry, who threw two touchdown passes. "The energy and flow of the game kept changing but it didn't seem to rattle us at all."
Central Arkansas, which lost its fifth straight game by four or fewer points, scored first on Grimes' 43-yard run.
Carmona then booted a 26-yard field goal, the result of a botched punt attempt by the Sioux.
UND trailed 10-0 after the first 5½ minutes. The Sioux trailed 13-0 when Carmona kicked a 32-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
But the Sioux defense became stronger as the game progressed. And the Sioux offense finally came through late in the second quarter on Landry's 4-yard scoring pass to Chris Anderson. The Sioux had a little luck on the play as Central Arkansas defensive back Anthony Gambles deflected the ball into Anderson's arms.
UND got within 16-14 when Landry connected with Noah Dombrovski for a 22-yard scoring pass with 2:06 left in the third.
"Our guys kept battling and making plays," Mussman said. "You can't panic. You have to give credit to our coaches. When you panic in the headsets, you panic on the field. But we managed to hang in there."