With quarterback Wynrick Smothers firing the big gun, the University of Central Arkansas Bears took apart the Murray State Racers with a variety of weapons Saturday night at Murray, Ky.
Smothers, making his third start as UCA quarterback, completed 31 of 41 passes for 358 yards and connected with five different receivers for touchdowns in a 42-20 victory.
Wide receiver Dominque Croom caught 10 of those passes for 184 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown reception that helped UCA to a 28-13 lead in the first half.
Jesse Grandy, who caught six passes for 73 yards, broke the game open with a 72-yard punt return in the third quarter, giving UCA a 35-20 lead after the Racers drove for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
Safety Jestin Love helped preserve the victory with an interception in the end zone. Linebacker Justin Heard had an interception late in the first half.
“If there was ever any doubt by anyone if Wynrick has complete command of our offense, and the accuracy and the athletic ability to do the things we’re asking him to do, he certainly showed it the last two weeks,’ said UCA head coach Clint Conque, whose Bears went to 1-1. “And we certainly have some kids outside for Wynrick to get the ball to, and they are definitely playmakers.’
The Bears, who managed only 30 yards rushig, accumulated 393 yards with Croom, Dezmin Lewis, Grady and Al Lasker all making key receptions. Lewis caught eight passes for 49 yards and Lasker four for 55 yards.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t move the line of scrimmage,” Conque said. “We don’t intend to throw the ball all the time but we have kids on the outside who are playmakers. For the second game in a row, we had no offensive penalties and I’m proud of that.”
After the Racers (0-2) crept within 28-20 on a 79-yard, 11-play drive to begin the second half, Grandy quickly seized back the momentum making a juke or two then jetting through the coverage for the touchdown.
After Love’s interception midway through the fourth quarter, Smothers passed 12 yards to Thomas Hart for the clinching touchdown with 5:51 left.
“We challenged Grandy this week,” Conque said. “If you give him good blocks and he gets space, he’s difficult to corral.”
The Bears had to endure a torrid passing attack led by Casey Brockman, one of the leading passers in NCAA FCS last year. The Murray State quarterback completed 41 of 63 passes for 445 yards and a touchdown but had three interceptions. The Racers managed 537 yards of offense in 97 plays.
Smothers connected with Grandy on some key passes on the Bears’ first possession, capping a 65-yard drive with an 18-yard scoring pass to Grady. Later in the quarter, he connected with Lasker for 10 yards to put the Bears up 14-0 with 3:58 left.
Brockman led the Racers on a 77-yard, 11-play drive to pull Murray within 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Smothers came back to lead the Bears on a 63-yard drive, connecting on passes to Grandy, Croom and Soft, then hit Lewis on a 3-yard corner rout to put UCA up 21-7 with 12:03 left in the half. He then found Croom in man coverage for a 74-yard TD pass to put UCA up 28-7 with 8:58 left.
Murray State got back in it when Brockman connected with Dontel Watkins on a 70-yard scoring play.
The Racers were driving again when Heard halted things with an interception.
“For awhile, we couldn’t get off the field on third down in the first half,” Conque said. “We made it challenging on defense but we found a way to overcome it.”
The Bears play their home opener Saturday night against Bacone College.