The University of Central Arkansas Bears scored 28 points in fewer than 16 minutes Saturday night, but coach Clint Conque was most impressed with what happened in the final minute.
With the Bears comfortably ahead, 35-3, against outmanned Bacone College — but with their focus and attention waning — the UCA coaching staff called two timeouts in the final minutes to force the Warriors to punt out of their end zone.
UCA took over at midfield with 1:08 left and quarterback Wynrick Smothers led a quick drive, completing a 10-yard pass to Dezmin Lewis in the corner of the end zone with seven seconds left.
Leading 42-3 at the half, the Bears (2-1) continued their onslaught the second half on the way to a 70-3 victory at First Security Field at Estes Stadium, the most points they have scored in the 13-year Clint Conque era.
“I was disappointed in two drives before that — one that resulted in an interception,” said Conque. “It was encouraging to see how we ran the two-minute offense and got a touchdown right before the half. We mixed it up and it was important that we can out and have an effective night running the football.”
The Bears’ home opener at Estes Stadium against the NAIA opponent from Muskogee, Okla., was little more than a formality — a little football in a little rain for a few minutes, framed by a celebration of the officially opening of the $2.1 million skyboxes at Estes Stadium.
Those folks, enjoying food and drink in the plush setting, as well as Bear fans throughout, saw a lot of dynamics in slightly more than a quarter;
Wynrick Smothers scampering 44 yards for a touchdown.
Tight end Chase Dixon making his first collegiate touchdown catch for 3 yards, capping an 87-yard drive.
Terence Bobo scoring on a run of 6 yards and a pass reception of 45.
Lewis scoring on a 12-yard blocked punt return, an 18-yard fumble return and a 10-yard pass.
Jamie Moore, a place-kicker from England, provided the Warriors’ only points on a 37-yard field goal.
Smothers, making his first start on First Security Field, completed 16 of 19 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the first half before retiring for the night. His only glitch was an interception in the end zone on a poorly thrown and ill-advised pass.
“There are a lot of plays that I’d like to have back that kept me from having a really great game that people didn’t notice,” Smothers said. “But when we got the ball on the two-minute drills, my teammates said it was all on me. I was able to get Bobo started with a couple of running plays and Dezmin made a big catch in the end zone.”
It was the most points score by a UCA team in since the Bears have been in NCAA FCS and the most since a 79-0 victory over Central Methodist in 1976. They scored 71 against College of the Ozarks in 1910 and 72 against Arkansas College in 1947.
After most of the fans had cleared out, UCA scored three times in the third quarter on a 4-yard pass from Ryan Howard to Dominque Croom, an 18-yard fumble return by Lewis and a 2-yard run by Jacoby Walker.
Running back Willie Matthews, who blocked the punt that Lewis returned for a touchdown, had an 83-yard touchdown run and rushed for 153 yards on 10 carries.
Seven different players (Smothers, Matthews, Bobo, Lewis, Croom, Walker and Dixon) scored for the Bears.
“Our players answered the call,” Conque said. “Outside of a couple of series the first half, we played pretty clean. We generally played cleanly the second half. I challenged the coaches that when we put in the reinforcements that I didn’t want things to get sloppy because we played a lot of people and some of those guys had just been down on the scout team. Our coaches had the guys ready and it showed maturity on our part.”
The Bears held Bacone to 109 total yards, 31 rushing and 78 passing. Eleven different players had tackles for loss for the Bears.
“Bacone came in and played hard; I have a lot of respect for NAIA teams because so much of our tradition before 1992 was NAIA football,” Conque said.
Things get much tougher Saturday as the Bears open Southland Conference play in a televised game at home against preseason favorite Sam Houston State, which led Baylor at the half Saturday night before losing, 48-23.