Bryant Bashes Benton for Fifth Win in a Row in Salt Bowl, 45-9

by Jim Harris  on Friday, Sep. 3, 2010 11:27 pm  

Tanner Tolbert breaks through the Benton defense on a fake punt to score the game's first touchdown in the Salt Bowl. (Photo by Amy Glover Bryant)

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A fourth-and-13 fake punt from near midfield went for a touchdown on Bryant's first possession, signaling that once again it would be the Hornets' night in the annual Salt Bowl battle with Benton at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium on Friday night. About all Bryant did wrong in the first quarter was miss extra points in racing to an 18-0 lead on the way to a 45-9 romp Friday at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium before 20,206 fans.

The win was Bryant fifth in a row in the series and cut Benton's overall margin in the rivalry to 24-13-1. Bryant has mostly dominated the series for the past decade. Benton last won in 2005.

"It just shows where our program's gotten," Bryant Coach Paul Calley said of the recent dominance in the Salt Bowl. "Fourteen years in a row we lost to Benton, up 'til '99. I think the tide has turned. Our program is a solid program. We've been to the playoffs nine years in a row. Our kids know how to win, they expect to win, and it's a good feeling. I'm proud of our group because it's made up of 35 seniors. I'm extremely proud for those guys. It really shows where we are."

Bryant's Tanner Tolbert called his own number on the fake punt from Benton's 43-yard line, breaking an arm-tackle in the backfield and racing through the open right side, then he cut back left and outran the Panthers to the left goal line pylon for the game's first touchdown just 2:42 into the game.

"We've been talking about it in practice, and he [Calley] said if it's open, go," Tolbert said after the game. "I just got it in my head somewhere that I was probably going to run. There was a hole and I took it. When I got in the open I was gone. It gave us a big ol' boost."

Calley said, "Fourth and 14 was not the situation I wanted to run the ball in. Tanner has a mind of his own and he said, 'Coach, there was a huge hole there.' I said, 'Yeah, that not really the time we want to use it.' But, it worked."

The Hornets' defense then turned the ball over to their offense at the Benton 46- and 30-yard lines for easy scoring drives. Senior quarterback Blake Davidson found Dillon Winfrey on a seam route behind the Benton secondary for a 17-yard score, and senior running back Stephen Clark ran the final yard of a three-play 30-yard march. Karon Dismuke set up the score with a 28-yard sprint around left end.

"We didn't execute on offense like I thought we would," Calley said. "I thought our defensive line played really well. We had some holes that we have to fix, but overall I'm pleased with the win. You want everything to be perfect. Of course it's not going to be but that's what we're shooting for."

Benton had a momentary sign of life and then some, maybe the most the Panthers have shown in a few years in the rivalry, early in the second quarter, and appeared on the verge of making a game of it with its aggressive, gambling defense. Perfectly executed pooch punts by Panthers quarterback Grant Jones pinned Bryant twice on its 7-yard line. The first resulted in Benton's Lucas Bailey dropping backup running back Jalen Bell in the end zone for a safety.

Bryant broke Benton's back after the second punt. On third-down from the 10, Davidson spotted Sawyer Nichols breaking open behind a sprawling Benton defensive back and hit him in stride for a 90-yard scoring play with 6:34 left in the half, putting the Hornets back in charge, 25-2. Nichols then returned a punt 12 yards to Bryant 49, setting up a 51-yard scoring drive that the senior receiver also finished when sophomore quarterback Hayden Lessenberry found him down the right seam for a 30-yard scoring pass. Bryant was up 31-2 at the half.

"Sawyer played some for us last year, but we couldn't get him in a groove, and in our scimmage game with Pine Bluff we couldn't get him the ball," Calley said. "We wanted to get him the ball tonight. He's a talented player. I'm just happy that he got an opportunity."

Clark bolted 29 yards on a delayed handoff and Jacob Powell, following an interception, rambled 9 yards untouched around left end for touchdowns within two minutes of each other in the third quarter, making it 45-2.



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