University of Central Arkansas coach admits that the Saturday’s victory over Lamar left him with a bit of indigestion.
The Lamar Cardinals shoved plain vanilla down the Bears’ throats
There is spice ahead.
The Cardinals, winless in Southland Conference play, didn’t let UCA play with the ball even when they were trailing by three scores.
The Bears, leading 17-0 at the half, had the ball for 11 snaps and 6:23 the second half.
The Cardinals, running primarily between the tackles and sprinkling few rollout passes on deep-out routes, drove 74 yards in 14 plays taking 7:21 off the clock for one drive and 67 yards in a whopping 16 plays, consuming 8:35 (effectively running out the clock while trailing 24-7) in the fourth quarter.
Both of those drives had the pace of a leisurely fall stroll.
Fans and players were almost lulled to sleep. Coaches were frustrated.
Boring was the first comment I heard when UCA fans gave me their post-game analysis.
The Bears got enough plays from quarterback Wynrick Smothers, receivers Jesse Grandy, Dominique Croom and Dezmin Lewis, back Jackie Hinton and defensive lineman Josh Woodard to never been in any real danger of losing to a two-victory team.
But there was a lot unconcerting about this one.
The Lamar offensive line pushed UCA off the ball consistently the second half. A team that had been struggling offensively produced two long scoring drives totaling 30 plays. At least three times, Cardinal backs DePaul Garrett and Darrell Harris carried four or more (once seven) UCA defenders 5 yards over more in a scrum-like effort for more yardage. And those were the Nos. 2 and 3 backs as top back Herschel Sims did not play.
With a 17-0 cushion at halftime after shutting the Cards completely down, the UCA defense appeared as disinterested as a student facing a lengthy English lit reading assignment.
But the concern is not what is in the past but what’s ahead.
“The challenges and the stakes get much higher,” said UCA coach Clint Conque. “We have stationed ourselves where we want to be.”
UCA is still on a tightrope in the SEC race. But there’s still a net. The Bears have a game with the team (Southeastern Louisiana) immediately ahead of them. If UCA defeats the Lions (unbeaten in conference play) this week in Hammond, they could throw the conference race into a possible four-way tie among themselves, Southeastern and Sam Houston and/or Stephen F. Austin.
That would mean advantage UCA since the Bears would have one league game remaining while every other conference team would have two.
Lose and the Bears’ hopes for a league title would be practically eliminated and their their postseason possibilities dangling for a couple of weeks.
To get to to where they want to be, the Bears are going to have to play better than they did against a 3-5 team.
Consider it a wakeup call.
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org