Next came Lamar, a long-time SLC rival. Riding a ten game winning streak against the Cardinals, UTA was looking to even their record to 3-3 on the season, as well as win a homecoming contest, the fifth time in the 27 years UTA played as a four-year school that LU was the homecoming opponent.
After some uncertainty at who should be the starter, David Bates had begun to solidify himself as the starting quarterback. It helped that Kieth Arbon, who had transferred from the same university as Bates, was his receiver. Junior Jarvis McKyer and freshman Tony Brown had started to have a good showing at the running back position. The offensive line also found a rhythm after a rough start. In short, this was one of the better all-around UTA offenses since the '60's. There were great rushing teams in the '70's, but passing wasn't part of that equation.
UTA also started to find some consistency defensively. After giving up 35 points to DII Angelo State and 38 to underdog Sam Houston, they allowed 16, 3 and 21, going 2-1 during that frame.
Their biggest problem were the untimely mistakes, a hallmark of UTA in the last 16 years of the program. UTA was leading Drake in the fourth quarter, but turnovers hurt there. Through the first five games, UTA lost 12 fumbles, and average of 2.4 per game. Add the eight interceptions and UTA averaged four turnovers a game through the first five, a bad recipe for winning.
Lamar, meanwhile, came in with one of their best offenses in a long time, due to one of their best running backs in a while, Burton Murchison. They entered with a 3-2 record, including a one-point loss to SWC-member Rice. The previous week, they suffered their worst loss of the year, a 37-14 setback to Louisiana-Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana, to open Southland Conference play.
Murchison would finish the year as the SLC's leading rusher, the first Cardinal to do that since 1967. He also led the SLC in all-purpose yards, the first to do that since the SLC compiled that stat category in 1978. He would also land on the SLC first team. He was injured in Lamar's last year in the SLC and didn't make the all-conference team as a junior.
UTA ignores Murchison, defeats Lamar, 37-17
By Ken Turetzky
ARLINGTON - UTA found out quickly in its Southland Conference opener Saturday, a 37-17 victory over Lamar, that Lamar's high-stepping running back Burton Murchison wasn't going to prove much of a bother no matter how many yards he piled up.
Murchison, a 6-0, 195-pound sophomore from Woodville, Texas, got his yardage - 202 yards on 27 carries to tie the single-season school rushing record with 1,005. He began as the second leading rusher in Division 1-AA.
But unfortunately for Murchison and the Cardinals, UTA quarterback David Bates also introduced Mavericks' coach Chuck Curtis' new big-play offense Saturday, passing for 260 yards and and three touchdowns to turn this game into a rout.
UTA's victory, before a homecoming crowd of 5,775, raised its season record to 3-3. Lamar has lost three straight games, falling to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in conference.
"I've been waiting for this all year," Curtis said. "We knew we were going to have to open (the offense) up a good bit more, but we didn't know it would come this fast."
Bates, who previously had averaged a little more than 10 yards per completion, averaged almost 29 against Lamar. He found fellow Brigham Young University transfer Keith Arbon 15 yards from the nearest defender on UTA's first possession and connected with a 70-yard scoring pass.
Lamar never recovered.
"I knew we'd have to throw to beat (Lamar)," Curtis said. "It would have been tough sleddin', running. We wanted to throw deep early."
Bates said the Mavericks "have shown a great tendency to throw short. We knew (the Cardinals) were going to pick up on that and we were going to have to throw deep."
Prior to the Bates-Arbon bomb, UTA had completed one-of-17 long passes, Bates said. Lamar clearly was not prepared for that play, as the defenders turned inside to cover wingback James White. "I was surprised I was back there by myself," said Arbon, who finished the game with five catches for 180 yards.
Bates, a 6-0 junior, passed for 218 yards and all three touchdowns in the first half, as UTA took a 27-0 lead. He set up two more scores after the opening series with quick strikes on the opening play.
Bates rolled left for a 49-yard pickup to begin UTA's second series, setting up a 28-yard field goal by Scott Roper, who kicked three for the game.
Lamar's Keith McFadden fumbled away and Andy McCarter punt early in the second period, and Bates immediately came back with a 30-yard touchdown pass to White.
Following a Lamar punt with six minutes left before halftime, Bates completed a short pass to Chris Jackson, who broke loose down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown.
As a result, Lamar was forced to pass, but Junior Dave Money completed just one-of-six for 11 yards and was sacked twice in the first half, while Murchison accounted for 90 of his team's 95 yards net of offense.
The Cardinals haven't won since Coach Ken Stephens suspended starting quarterback Brent Watson two weeks ago for unspecified "training violations."
Faced with Money's ineffectiveness, Stephens inserted freshman Shad Smith - whom he hoped to red-shirt - in the third quarter. Smith threw for two touchdowns.
LAMAR.................0 0 7 10-17
Texas-Arlington ....10 17 3 7-37
UTA - Arbon 70 pass from Bates (Roper kick)
UTA - FG Roper 28
UTA - White 30 pass from Bates (Roper kick)
UTA - FG Roper 39
UTA - Jackson 51 pass from Bates (Roper kick)
Lam - Clay 35 pass from Smith (Andrie kick)
UTA - FG Roper 34
UTA - Brown 13 yard run (Roper kick)
Lam - Safety, York tackled in end zone
Lam - Levias 17 pass from Smith (Miller run)
First downs...................15 14
Passing yards...............113 260
Return yards..................30 32
Time of possession...26:23 33:37
Rushing - Lamar: Murchison 27-202, Landry 5-12; UTA: McKyer 9-24, Brown 8-49.
Passing - Lamar: Money 3-11-0-24, Smith 5-13-1-89; Bates 9-17-1-260.
Receiving - Lamar: Clay 5-72, Levias 2-32; UTA: Arbon 5-180, White 1-30.