The afternoon began with the University of Central Arkansas offense’s second unit being nailed for two safeties in a coming-out session on the goal line.
But the second scrimmage of preseason Saturday got better and coach Clint Conque saw more of the mix he is looking for.
“It was a much better scrimmage than last week because we had big plays on both sides of the ball,” Conque said. “I didn’t think our first offensive line played well early but they established a little bit of rhythm late and we got some big plays after intermission. Our defense is playing fast with a lot of confidence and running to football. We missed a couple of tackles. The offense gave them a more difficult time when we changed tempo.
“I feel good about our punt returns, kickoff returns and punt coverage but we are a work in progress on our punt units and blocking. We had one block so we are going to have to take a look at that unit.
“But all our mistakes are correctable and we have eight more practices to clean things up.”
Quarterback Wynrick Smothers threw three touchdown passes to Dezmin Lewis, Jatavious Wilson and Clay Murphy. Blake Gardner made a leaping catch of a Smothers pass to set up Willie Matthews’ 1-yard touchdown run. In third-team work, Hayden Hildebrand passed to Roman Gordon for another score.
“Smothers was much sharper today, especially when he got into a rhythm and we picked up the tempo,” Conque said.
Nine players on the two-deep were held out of the scrimmage because of injury, which puts more a sense of urgency for some of them at Wednesday night’s final scrimmage, which will be primarily for newcomers.
“Some frontline players may get a few reps just to give them work coming off injury,” Conque said.
In evaluating the video from last week’s lightning-shortened scrimmage, Conque said he saw a few bright spots from the No. 1 offensive unit. Smothers for 8 of 13 for 111 yards and a touchdown and 11 different receivers caught passes. “And the first offensive line did some good things,” he said.
As a reward for the end of preseason camp, Conque and his staff will take the team to Wild River Country in North Little Rock on Sunday.
Monday begins the initial installation of the game plan for the season opener against Incarnate Word of Aug. 29.
“We have a lot of work to do in all three phases,” Conque said. “We have some personnel decisions to make to start narrowing down our roster to our top 50 of 55 guys.”
The Bears came out of the 90-play scrimmage Saturday with no major injuries.
“And that may be the stat of the day,” he said.