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Sports

October 19, 2013

LU hopes to make Central Arkansas homecoming victim

BEAUMONT —  BEAUMONT — A loss would inflict similar degrees of damage upon Central Arkansas and Lamar tonight but a win would offer completely different levels of reward points.

  It can be argued that ambitious LU has much more to gain when it entertains its visitors from Conway, Arkansas in Provost Umphrey Stadium at 6 p.m.

  Their records begin the night with identical numbers — 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the Southland Conference. Either one can forget about being a championship contender if it should end the night at 0-2. So the adverse effects are much the same for Ray Woodard’s Cardinals and Clint Conque’s Bears.

  Yet the Redbirds arguably stand to gain much more from a victory if they are able to secure one. For one thing, it’s homecoming night at Lamar. For another, the Cardinals have struggled to discover any wins against the upper echelon SLC football programs. When you combine the outcomes against Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, McNeese and Central Arkansas since the 2010 football restart, Lamar is 0-12 against those four opponents.

  Last Saturday’s 14-3 setback at Sam Houston served as an impressive step to Big Red boosters but it did not equate to a victory. A win over UCA would make an even greater impression and it would add much more meaning to the second half of Lamar’s season.

  “It was very encouraging to watch,” LU’s fourth-year head coach said. “I’m very proud of how we played. I think we left that game thinking that we weren’t going to be pushed around.”

  It definitely can be argued that Lamar’s defensive unit shined in Huntsville because Sam Houston State scored fewer points than at any time in 22 games.

  Just how good are defensive coordinator Bill Bradley’s troops? Lamar ranks first in the Southland Conference in three important categories – scoring defense, pass defense and total defense. The Redbirds and the Bears are 1-2 in total defense going into tonight’s meeting with LU allowing 309.8 yards a game and UCA 341 yards a game.

  The Cardinals have permitted 131.8 passing yards a contest to UCA’s third-best SLC average of 203 yards a game.

  But the most important issue of tonight’s outing may center around the Bears’ quarterback play. Fifth-year senior Wynrick Smothers sustained a broken ankle in last Saturday’s 31-0 home victory over Nebraska-Kearney. The injury came when Smothers kept the ball for a 10-yard gain on a 3rd-and-1 play midway into the third quarter of last week’s game. The reigning SLC offensive player of the year ran off the field on one leg before the X-ray gave the bad medical news.

  Current SLC stats revealed Smothers averaged 302.7 passing yards a game, ranking second in the SLC behind only Stephen F. Austin’s Brady Attaway. The end of Smothers’ college career sadly arrived too soon for the Bears and their outstanding head coach.

  “Of all the things that Wynrick has poured into the university, and to our football program, it’s tough,” UCA’s Conque said. “We know injuries are part of the game but that one was tough.”

  Conque played three more Bears quarterbacks during the rest of the game. Ryan Howard, Taylor Reed and Jacoby Walker all received snaps, and the first two attempted multiple passes. Howard replaced Smothers and engineered a 91-yard touchdown series which included an eight-yard scoring pass to tight end Chase Dixon.

  Woodard can’t be too concerned with UCA’s offensive problems because Lamar never reached the end zone against Sam Houston’s defense last week. The Cardinals snapped the ball 10 times inside Sam Houston’s 25-yard line during last Saturday’s second quarter but had no points to show for it.

  “We have to do better in the red zone,” the Lamar coach said. “We definitely are putting work in this week to improve our offense in the red zone.”

  Lamar junior quarterback Caleb Berry had an interception which halted one of those red-zone trips at Sam Houston. Berry completed only 17 of 41 passes for 196 yards against the Bearkats.

  “We’re going to have to cut down our mistakes,” Berry said. “UCA is going to be a good test for us.”

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