5:24 remained when UCA began a drive at its 25 with two timeouts remaining and trailing Sam Houston State, 20-10.
A bunch of crazy plays, poor plays and spectacular plays happened during a condensed period that punctuated one of the greatest games and most dramatic endings to a game ever played at Estes Stadium.
Sam Houston State, the NCAA FCS runner-up last year, didn’t lose that game (won 24-20) by UCA. The Bears won it.
With that uphill climb the last 5:24, UCA coach Clint Conque said he surveyed his sideline.
“I was looking to make sure we were holding our poise and doing the same things and the right things,” he said. “There was no panic. I saw more teaching — players and coaches were teaching and educating on a football field at an institution of higher learning. It was energizing. There was no finger-pointing. People were constantly talking strategy.
“I went up to the offense and told them, ‘we’ve got to get one, some kind of score, before we can get two.’”
The Bears, with quarterback Wynrick Smothers checking into the right plays, drove 75 yards in eight plays for a touchdown in 2:06. Just as important, they did not use one of the Bears’ remaining timeouts.
“We wanted to save our timeouts, if we could, for the defense and we had to have a stop,” Conque said.
The UCA defense, who played poorly against the outside read option all game, stopped it once for a 2-yard loss, then threw the Bearkats for another loss and stopped them just short on third down. UCA used its remaining two timeouts in the process, which Conque said was the plan.
The Bears got the ball back with on their 28 with 2:11 left and no timeouts.
This time, the great teaching moment came from senior running back Terence Bobo.
Sam Houston jumped into a defensive alignment that quarterback Wynrick Smothers, starting only his fifth game, had not seen. Confused, he signaled for a timeout that UCA didn’t have and the Bears were penalized 5 yards for delay of game.
As the Bears were penalized, Conque walked toward his quarterback.
“Then, Bobo told me, ‘Coach, I’ve got this.’ Smothers had never seen that alignment but Bobo, who is a fifth-year senior, had, Here, I see a fifth-year, experienced, senior running back teaching our quarterback what to do and explaining we needed to do offensively, which is basically we bow out on the linemen on each side, get a five-on-five matchup up front and Bobo takes the second level.”
Smothers kept the drive alive with an 8-yard shovel pass to Bobo after a fumbled snap then hits Dominque Croom down the sideline of a perfectly thrown 41-yard pass that sets up the winning touchdown. “People have told me how similar that pass was to the one Eli Manning threw that helped the Giants win the Super Bowl,” Conque said.
After delay penalty, Eddie Carmara kicked a 25-yard extra point that was a similar situation in which he missed against Ole Miss.
“Then, on the kickoff, they (the Bearkats) make a mistake by trying to return it out of the end zone and a true freshman, Dillon Winfrey, makes a great solo tackle at their 15,” Conque said. “Later, Dominique Brown, who is 5-foot-10, 200, picks up a 6-2, 215-pound receiver and keeps him in the field on play on a sideline pattern and forced them to take their final timeout at their 49 (25 seconds left).”
The Bearkats kept their poise, drove to the UCA 24 with three seconds left and tried a “Hail Mary” in the end zone. It resulted in a jump ball situation with a tall receiver falling to the ground by having a chance a the descending ball that was richocheting about after bouncing off a couple of pads. Karl Brady intercepted just above the ground.
“To be honest, I didn’t know it was an interception until Sunday morning,” Conque said. “I thought we had knocked it down and the important thing is I didn’t see the referee raise his arms with the touchdown signal.”
But forgive the coach’s blind look from the sideline. In those frantic final minutes, he had seen enough to feel good.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)