UCA Bears at A-State Red Wolves – In-State Duel, Familiar Foes


CONWAY, Ark. – The University of Central Arkansas will get another shot at beating a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team on Saturday night, this time one from within the state of Arkansas.

The UCA Bears (2-1, 2-0), who compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves (0-3) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium in Jonesboro on ESPN3. The Red Wolves won the last meeting _ the only one with both teams as NCAA Division I programs _ 53-24 in 2011.

UCA has come close in recent years in knocking off an FBS school. The UCA Bears lost 25-20 at Hawaii when the Rainbow Warriors scored a touchdown with 1:22 remaining. UCA lost in overtime at Louisiana Tech (48-42) in 2011, and led Ole Miss at halftime before falling 49-27 in 2012 in Oxford, Miss. In 2013, the Bears lost 38-24 at Colorado after taking a 24-17 lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

Two years ago at Texas Tech, UCA fought back from a 28-16 deficit to get within a touchdown twice in the fourth quarter of a a 42-35 loss in Lubbock.

FCS teams have eight victories over FBS teams so far this season, with one over a team ranked in the Top 25 (North Dakota State 23, No. 13 Iowa  21).

UCA, coming off a workmanlike 24-10 Southland Conference victory over Northwestern State, faces an ASU team looking for its first victory of the season.

“Arkansas State, they’re sitting there 0-3 but they are a very, very good football team,’ said UCA head coach Steve Campbell. “Last year they were sitting at 1-3 after four games and then went on and won something like eight of their last nine and won the Sun Belt (Conference). So they are a very good football team. They played a tough schedule early. Toledo will be a bowl team, Utah State will be a bowl team, and Auburn has been a bowl team about every year.

“So they’ve played a very, very tough schedule early but we know they are an outstanding team that will compete for the Sun Belt championship again. They are extremely well coached by Blake Anderson. He does an outstanding job with his teams.”

Campbell and Anderson have a history, having coached together on the Middle Tennessee State football staff in 2002, just one of many ties between the UCA and ASU coaching staffs. UCA defensive line coach Larry Hart was a graduate assistant at ASU the past two seasons. ASU offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner was UCA’s quarterback’s coach in 2009, and ASU’s Brian Early coached defensive line and linebackers at UCA from 2004-08.

Also, ASU wide receivers coach Luke Paschall coached on Campbell’s staff at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community?College in 2007 along with UCA Bears assistant coach Pete Bennett. Campbell coached ASU offensive line coach Allen Rudolph at Nicholls State in the early 1990s.

“There is a lot of familiarity with our staffs,” said Campbell, in his third season at UCA. “Our kids are really looking forward to this game because they played high school against a lot of these guys, followed those guys in the paper, went to camps with them when you’re growing up. So there will definitely be a lot of familiarity between the two programs.

“It’s an in-state rival and it’s a game we’re very much looking forward to. They are a great football team but we’re very excited about playing them.”

The Bears lead the SLC in total defense (267.7 yards per game) and rushing defense (58.0 yards per game) and are second in total offense (498.0 yards per game) and scoring offense (36.3 points per game). UCA is also No. 1 in first downs (85, third in the nation) and third-down conversions (45.8 percent). UCA’s third-down conversions allowed (14.9 percent) also leads the nation.

Senior wide receiver Jatavious Wilson is first in the league in receptions per game (6.7) and receiving yards per game (102.0), while senior Desmond Smith is No. 4 in receptions (5.3) and No. 3 in yards (89.3). Freshman running back Carlos Blackman is fourth in rushing (87.3 yards per game) and sophomore kicker Matt Cummins is first in PAT kicking (13 for 13).

The Bears, after three consecutive home games, will be on the road again next Saturday in a return to SLC play at Abilene Christian, then have their only open date on Oct. 8 before another road contest at SLC power McNeese State on Oct. 15.

uca bears face red wolves 2016



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