Saturday’s matchup between the University of Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State is between projected NCAA FCS heavyweights.
We may not see a knockout, but the exciting part should be two teams constantly throwing haymakers. And some will connect with velocity.
“Somebody’s band has a chance to play after every play,” said UCA coach Clint Conque.
The reason is the matchup between UCA’s offense and Sam Houston’s defense, which has given the Bears fits the last three years.
The Bearkats like to stack the box (put a lot of players on the line of scrimmage), attempting to outnumber the opposition at the point of attack from both the perimeter and the middle — then attack, attack, attack. That leaves the secondary primarily in man-to-man coverage, which sets up one-on-one matchups on the outside. The key is the Bearkats have great athletes in the secondary with the pincher thrust of strong and powerful defensive ends.
Their approach is they can make more big plays against you than you can against them.
Baylor got a little too cute with its attack the first half last week and found itself down 20-10 at intermission before the Bears adjusted, took advance of Sam Houston mistakes and outscored the Bearkats, 31-3, in the second half.
“They (the Bearkats) are aggressive and confident,” said Conque. “They’ll put six, seven, eight in the box every time and are daring you to throw the ball, If you run, you may run against a brick wall. They make you beat man coverage.
“And the thing is, they know they are going to give up some big plays. But if you beat them, they will get right back up and get right back in your face.”
The Bears counter that with their most versatile group of receivers they’ve had in years, all of whom are playmakers. The receivers also have the speed and length to go up and get the ball against man coverage.
They will attack with quarterback Wynrick Smothers, who enters the game No. 2 in the nation in FCS in pass efficiency (178.19) and No. 1 in completion percentage (78 percent). He presents the Bearkats a challenge because he can turn a broken play in a long-gainer with his scrambling.
“But those windows to throw the ball are really tight,” Conque said. “Our receivers have the size and speed to get separation. We’ll see if they can. We will see pressure defense like we saw the second half against Ole Miss.”
One glitch for the Bears in their attack is Al Lasker, one of the big-play wide receivers, will be serving the second-game of a two-game disciplinary suspension.
But wide receiver is a position that the Bears have quality depth and their running backs can catch the ball.
The run game? It has been paltry so far for the Bears. It may remain that way because of the way Sam Houston tries to outnumber a team at the line of scrimmage. Yet, the Bears’ ability to present some kind of run threat could be a key.
“They are going to make us make plays; they are not going to give us anything cheap,” Conque said. “We know each other. They are going to be true to who they are and we are going to be what we are. It will come down to execution and who can make big plays.”
And there should be enough of them to keep fans in interested for a long time.
“At times, you are going to see 22 players, spread out, but within six yards on the line of scrimmage,” said Conque.
Things may be pretty at times, but it’s not likely to be dull.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)