Bradley’s kick supplies winning margin in Hornets’ showdown with Russellville
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
It’s nice that Austin Bradley got some game-pressure kicking practice at Pine Bluff. Not that it was his first time around, of course. He kicked two field goals in 2006 as a sophomore and had booted one in the late stages of a rout of El Dorado, the second game of the season.
Against Pine Bluff, however, Bradley knocked three through the uprights in front of a hostile crowd — not to mention a group of rather large Zebras — early in the game when the outcome was still in doubt. Those field goals helped the Bryant Hornets defeat Pine Bluff 30-12.
Still, that was nothing like the pressure he faced on Friday, Oct. 5. With :03.5 showing on the clock, Bradley was called upon to try to break a 7-7 deadlock between the Hornets and the Russellville Cyclones. First place in the 7A-Central Conference was on the line, Bryant’s No. 1 ranking (in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) was on the line, and the Hornets’ unbeaten record was on the line in the contest.
No pressure, right?
Of course, a miss would just send the game to overtime but momentum would definitely be on the Cylcones’ side of the field.
The Hornets called a timeout to bring the field-goal unit on but then, as they lined up to kick, Russellville called timeout twice in hopes of “icing” the Bryant junior, or snapper Bo Haynes, or holder Ethan Powell.
To no avail.
The snap was good, the hold was right and Bradley’s kick split the middle to start a celebration of the Hornets’ 10-7 victory in a hard-fought conflict.
“It was just a great effort by everybody,” said Bryant defensive coordinator Steve Griffith. “The offense came through at the end when they had to, the kicking game came through right there. It was a good team victory against a really good football team.”
And the defense did yeoman’s work, particularly, in the second half when they were on the field for 15 of the first 20 minutes. They seemed to get stronger as they went along.
“They played a lot but you’ve got to be prepared for that,” Griffith said. “We talk to the kids about being in shape and ready to go. Some nights, we’re going to be on the field a lot. That’s just part of the game. We had some guys like Dexter Barksdale, Nick Chapdelaine and some of those guys that came in and gave us a few downs here and there that really gave some guys some relief when they were needing it. I think that helped us at the end of the ballgame.”
Bryant wound up holding Russellville to a net of just 3 yards rushing but quarterback Blake Humphrey threw for 228 yards including a 31-yard touchdown with :11.8 left in the first half, tying the game despite the vehement pleas for a holding penalty against the Cyclone lineman who had his arm wrapped around Hornets’ defensive end Raylen Cantrell who was bearing down on Humphrey.
In fact, both teams struggled to run the ball most of the night. It became a pass-pass contest with both defenses blitzing constantly. Humphrey and Bryant signal-caller Logan Parker were constantly under pressure but Parker was sacked just once while Humphrey lost yardage — partly because of a couple of bad shotgun snaps — on six plays.
The Bryant quarterback completed 14 of 30 passes for 145 yards putting him over the 1,000-yard mark on the season.
“We put in a new little look against the spread where we basically used three down linemen and four linebackers and four secondary guys,” Griffith said. “We were able to run some stunts off that look and get a little pressure and kind of confuse their blocking scheme. I was proud of the kids coming through with that.”
And when they positively had to have it, the offense came through with a determined effort to get the running game going with linemen Chad Hinson, Layth Qassas, Jody Rounsaville, Hunter McNeill, Jordan Jacobs and Landon Montgomery clearing the way for Parker and running back Aspen Trevino.
The defense had held a Russellville drive that reached the 42. Cantrell sniffed out a screen pass and dropped the Cyclones’ Kyler Lee for a loss to the 38. On the next play, Humphrey appeared to have Derek Owens open deep down the right sideline but he had to throw under pressure and lofted the ball enough that safety Logan Cruse and corner Jordan Knight made up the ground to knock the pass away.
On third down, Humphrey was flushed from the pocket and brought down on a nice open-field tackle by linebacker Austin Humbard.
On the punt, the Hornets were flagged for the second time in the game for running into the kicker. Russellville coach Jeff Holt went to his knees in frustration, contending that it should’ve been roughing the kicker which would’ve resulted in a 15-yard mark-off and a new set of downs. Instead, the 5-yard penalty produced a second punt which was downed at the Bryant 19.
The resulting drive didn’t get off to a great start when the Hornets were penalized back to the 14 but Trevino broke a 14-yard run to get the march in gear.
Parker kept for 6 and a new set of downs then Trevino picked up 4, 3 and 10 to get the ball to midfield before Parker threw the first pass of the drive, a 9-yard completion to Jackson who was prevented from breaking the play big by a nice open-field tackle. Trevino dashed for 7 but then Parker was dropped for a loss of a yard.
“Obviously, they’re thinking pass all the way,” commented Bryant offensive coordinator Brooks Coatney. “I give Aspen a lot of credit. He was a little banged up but he sucked it up and did a good job. Our offensive line blocked that last drive very well.”
The field goal was ultimately set up by a 17-yard pass from Parker to Taylor Masters who made a leaping, spinning catch down the middle at the 17 with :39 showing.
“It was a great catch,” Coatney acknowledged. “But that’s what you’ve got to have.”
Parker kept for 2 yards to get the ball in the center of the field and the Hornets led the clock roll down to :03.7 before calling their final timeout.
“I thought we had a couple of chances to make some plays and some of the plays that we’ve made this year we didn’t make tonight,” Coatney added. “But I think it’s a credit to our guys and our senior leadership that we struggled all night then drove down in a couple of minutes to set up the field goal.”
The Hornets started the game with a 79-yard drive in seven plays to get on the board. Parker completed 3-of-4 passes including a quick throw to Masters who picked up blocks from fellow receivers Jake Jackson and Tim Floyd and sprinted upfield for a 32-yard touchdown.
Russellville responded with a drive to the Bryant 12, aided by a pass interference penalty that converted a third-down situation. But a holding penalty on the next play moved them back to the 20 and, a play later, Ethan Passmore sacked Humphrey at the 24. A third-down pass fell incomplete and a 42-yard field goal attempt by Josh Crain was wide.
The Hornets were stopped on three plays on the next possession. Humbard lined up to punt and a Russellville player got through when a he had to field a low snap. Instead of having the kick blocked, Humbard stepped around the defender, started to go ahead and kick but then saw an opening and took off on a 24-yard run that gave the Hornets a new set of downs.
The Hornets drove to the Russellville 27 but a fumble cost them possession.
The defense got it right back when Adam Harris, who led the team with 10 tackles, intercepted a pass and returned to the Cyclone 44 with 10:28 left in the half.
But the Hornets managed just one first down the rest of the half, then just one more in the third quarter.
“After the first possession, we’re thinking we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing,” Coatney said. “But you give credit to Russellville. They made some adjustments and we didn’t execute like we should have but, again, they don’t beat the people they’ve beaten and played the people tough that they’ve played and not have some good players and some good schemes. They did a good job on us. They did a very good job of tackling us. We got the ball outside to Masters and Jackson and they did a good job of tackling one-on-one.”
Russellville came into the game off a 23-0 win over defending conference champion Little Rock Central with losses only to 7A-West powers Bentonville and Fayetteville.
The Cyclones made a bid for a tying score midway through the second quarter, reaching the Bryant 22. But, on a fourth-and-4, Owens caught a Humphrey pass and Knight made an instant open-field tackle that stopped the receiver a yard short of a first down.
An interception by Terrell Carter gave the Cyclones the ball back at the Bryant 47 with 1:19 left in the half. They moved to the 31 despite a sack of Humphrey by Nathan Probst. A bad snap almost sabotaged the drive but Humphrey was able to scoop the ball up and throw an incomplete pass to save it. On the next play, he found Cloud on a skinny post route for the touchdown.
Russellville opened the second half with a drive to the Bryant 41. But the Hornets, on second down there, swarmed lee for a loss of three then another bad snap resulted in a 12-yard loss as Humphrey fell on the loose ball and the Cylcones punted it away. Jackson made a big return back to near midfield but the Hornets were flagged for running into the kicker and, on the second punt, Bryant got it at its own 21.
After a Hornet punt, Russellville drove to the Bryant 25 where three consecutive incomplete passes ended the possession and Bryant took over on downs.
After a trade of punts, the Hornets made a bid to score as the running game began to have some effect. Behind Trevino and Parker and the resurgent offensive line, they marched to the 31 where, on a third-down pass, Floyd got open deep down the left sideline but Parker’s pass to him in the end zone was just off his fingertips incomplete.
A rushed fourth-down pass fell incomplete and Russellville took over for its final drive with 7:23 to play.
The Hornets, now 5-0-1 overall and 3-0 in conference, travels to Conway this Friday to take on the rival Wampus Cats. They continue to wear well the bull’s-eye of being No. 1.
“We’re just going to have to keep on going and, from here on out, every game’s big,” Coatney observed. “We’re going to get every team’s best effort.”