SAN ANTONIO – The Incarnate Word Cardinals shook off a poor start to defeat the No. 23 ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats 43-26 in front of a season-high 5,643 fans at Benson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The win saw UIW bounce back from a loss to Lamar last weekend and puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the Southland Conference with McNeese and Nicholls following McNeese’s loss earlier in the day.
“We had to believe as coaches and we had to have these kids believe that they were good enough. Boy, can I tell you, they’re good enough,” UIW Head Coach Eric Morris said. “They’re better than I could ever imagine. I love the way they’re coming out and preparing, and they’re getting everything that they deserve.”
UIW started the game off slow offensively, despite getting the first points of the day. Cardinals quarterback Jon Copeland connected with Phillip Baptiste for a touchdown following UIW intercepting a pass and bringing the ball back 23 yards.
Sam Houston would score the next 13 points when Ty Brock found Nathan Stewart for a score and the Bearkats would add a field goal later. The Cardinals would score 10 points before halftime, capped off with a Copeland touchdown pass to Kody Williams, putting UIW up 16-13 at the break.
The Cardinals blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring Sam Houston 27-7. Copeland and Edwards connected for the second time on the day, this time on a 71-yard bomb to pull away for good. UIW would take a comfortable 20-point lead into the final 15 minutes of play.
UIW forced seven Sam Houston turnovers, including two returns for touchdowns. The Cardinals allowed just 132 rushing yards from the Bearkats on the afternoon.
What a great job by the defense of pressuring the quarterback, interceptions, fumbles, all that stuff,” Morris said. “Offensively, we started out slow, but I thought we picked up on the different things they were doing against us schematically and we were able to make some big plays down the field. We responded in a good way. I’m super proud of this team.”
Ra’Quanne Dickens’ touchdown on Saturday tied the school record for most in a season with 11. Copeland shattered Trent Brittain’s record for most passing touchdowns and most pass completions in a single season.
The Cardinals finish the home portion of their schedule undefeated at 4-0, marking their first undefeated season in “The Nest” at Benson Stadium in program history.
“For us to go undefeated at home, I think they deserve to have a fan base behind them. I think we’ll continue to build that,” Morris said. “I think we play a fun brand of football. It’ll be a team here that I think we can get San Antonio behind.”
The only thing left for the Cardinals to do is get a conference championship. UIW currently sits locked in a three-way tie for the top spot in the Southland Conference. A win next weekend combined with a McNeese, Lamar, or Nicholls would give them just that.
“We take it one game at a time,” defensive lineman Lukas Termin said. “We’ll enjoy this win until 12 o’clock tonight and then focus on next week’s big game.”
The UIW Cardinals are now 5-4 (5-2, SLC) on the season and will return to the field next Saturday when they face Central Arkansas (5-4, 4-3) at 3 pm Central Time.