UIW Football Falls to Central Arkansas in Season Opener
Despite the loss, the Cardinals (0-1) had a number of bright spots that they can build on for the rest of the season. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Trent Brittain (Eastland/Eastland HS) led the offense against a strong Bears (1-0) defense that was one of the best in the Southland Conference a year ago. Brittain went 21-of-38 passing for 144 yards without tossing an interception and was only sacked twice. He carried the ball nine times for a team-high 70 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown scamper.
Another freshman, Greg Lemon (Austin/Sweeny HS) had a big game at outside linebacker for UIW. He recorded the team’s lone sack and also recovered a fumble and picked up 28 yards on the return.
The story of the game was the play of the high-powered offense of the Bears and their new star, freshman wideout Jatavious Wilson. Senior quarterback Wynrick Smothers, the reigning SLC Offensive Player of the Year, was very efficient going 27-of-31 for 267 yards and a touchdown in a little over two quarters of work, but it was Wilson who had the biggest impact on the game. He caught four passes for 105 yards and two scores and he dropped a potential third touchdown. He added two punt returns for 16 yards and capped off his performance with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Bears never allowed the Cardinals in the game as they scored on each of their first five possessions of the game. Running back Blake Veasley got things started with a pair of touchdown runs in the first eight minutes of the game and finished with a game high 85 yards on 17 carries. Eddie Camara added a 42-yard field goal with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
The Bears kept up the scoring in the second quarter scoring on a Smothers to Wilson 29-yard pass with 7:36 remaining and on a Danzell Williams 1-yard plunge with 2:36 to play in the half.
The Cardinals had to quickly punt and the Bears threatened to score again before the half, but Nick Ginn (Corpus Christi/Calallen HS) forced a fumble that was returned by Lemon. UIW was able to pick up a first down on the legs of Brittain and moved up to the UCA 40-yard thanks to a penalty with time for one final play in the half. The Cardinals ran a perfect “Hail Mary” with three receivers in tight formation and freshman Daryl Brooks (Teague/Teague HS) came down with the ball, but was stopped at the 1-yard line so the Cardinals trailed 30-0 at the half.
In the first half, the Bears racked up 360 yards of total offense to only 101 for the Cardinals, but the second half played a little more evenly. The third quarter started poorly for UIW with a blocked punt being recovered in the endzone by Desmond Smith for a touchdown for the Bears.
A little later in the quarter, Emmanuel Nunez (Dallas/Seguin HS) boomed a 51-yard punt that was muffed by Clay Murphy and recovered by UIW’s Daryl Irby (Pearland/Dawson HS) giving the Cardinals their best field position of the game at the UCA 25-yard line. The Cardinals drove down inside the 10-yard line and Brittain nearly scored a touchdown, but in his dive toward the goal line the ball came lose and went out of bounds in the end zone giving a touchback to the Bears.
UCA used the turnover to their advantage. They drove 80 yards in 11 plays using up 4:45 seconds before Williams scored his second touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run.
The Cardinals finally got on the board late in the fourth quarter. After a 30-yard kickoff return by Devin Haywood (San Antonio/Roosevelt HS), the Cardinals picked up a pair of first downs. Facing a second-and-10 at the UCA 38-yard line, Brittain rolled out and found open field racing for a touchdown with 4:00 remaining in the game.
The Cardinals picked up 12 first downs in the game gaining 87 yards on the ground on 24 carries and 144 yards through the air. They were 4-of-16 on third down conversions and committed only one turnover. They had eight penalties for 55 yards. Clint Killough (San Antonio/MacArthur HS) led the team with five catches for 37 yards. Haywood had three kick returns for 106 yards, including a 55-yarder.
Kobie Douglas (Plano/Plano HS) led the UIW defense with eight tackles and a pass break up. Josh Zellars (Baytown/Lee HS) added six tackles in his first game for the club. Nunez finished the game with eight punts for an average of 44.5 yards per kick.
The Bears finished with 142 yards rushing and 381 yards passing. In addition to Veasley, Williams finished with 50 yards on nine carries. Blake Gardner led all players with 10 receptions for 61 yards. Desmond Smith added four catches for 77 yards. Wilson finished the game with 215 all-purpose yards.
The UCA defense had three players with five tackles apiece. Jonathan Woodard and Jordan Toliver each had a sack in the game while Jestin Love had two tackles for loss. Ricky Wyatt and Dezmin Lewis each blocked a kick in the game.
The Bears had 25 total first downs in the game and held a time of possession advantage by holding the ball for 33:24. They converted 10-of-14 third down chances and were 5-for-5 in the Red-Zone.
The Cardinals are back in action next Saturday, September 7 against Texas College in the home opener at 6 p.m.