JONESBORO — The University of Central Arkansas Bears failed to break during a first-half kicking onslaught by Arkansas State on Saturday night, then succumbed to both a kicking and a thorough smashing the second half.
The Red Wolves, leading only 19-10 at the half on four field goals by workhorse Brian Davis, took the second-half kickoff and overpowered the Bears during an 83-yard touchdown drive. They followed that with a 21-yard field goal by Davis that ignited a 53-24 victory in the first meeting between the two teams since 1997.
"We played pretty well on defense early on, then ran out of gas," said UCA coach Clint Conque. "We’re pretty thin over there."
While the contest attracted some pre-game electricity with tailgating and pre-game festivities, that excitement shorted out fairly quickly after the second half. It attracted a good, but less-than-capacity crowd of 27,918, possibly lessened by a pre-game rain. The 1996 and 1997 games here drew 25,112 and 29,485, respectively.
Most of the crowd, except for the two bands, were gone by early in the fourth quarter.
During the 17-point, third-quarter flurry in which the Red Wolves took total control of the line of scrimmage, ASU also drove 53 yards to a 2-yard run by Andre Smith. The Red Wolves began the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Frampton. Davis’ extra point, followed by a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, set a Sun Belt and school record for most field goals in a game (six), one short of the NCAA record. He also set a school record for most points by a kicker in a game with 23.
The bright spot of the second half for UCA came when sophomore quarterback Wynrick Smothers connected with Jesse Grandy on a 53-yard touchdown play with 1:50 left in the third quarter. He also connected with Al Lasker for a 40-yard pass Smothers, starting in place of senior Nathan Dick, was 17 of 32 for 225 yards. He was victimized by a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown by Sterling Young. Smothers also caught a 1-yard TD pass from Terence Bobo with 2:45 left.
As the ASU defense went more on the attack the second half, the Bears were held to 132 total yards in the final half, mostly on the two long pass plays.
The UCA defense bent a lot in the first half during a 266-yard offensive flurry.
But it didn’t break as the Bears held ASU to four field goals — of 24, 32, 33 and 34 yards by Davis.
Smothers handled the UCA offense very efficiently in mixing the pass and the run in leading the Bears on one of their best drives of the season — 72 yards in 12 plays — capped by a 3-yard scoring run by Jackie Hinton. That gave the Bears a 7-3 lead with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
ASU responded in three plays. Aplin connected with Taylor Stockemer for 43 yards to the UCA 14, then hit in in the corner of the end zone a play later to give the Red Wolves the lead for good at 10-7 with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
From there, it was trading field goals for the remainder of the half with ASU getting a 3-1 advantage in three-pointers.
The Bears had a drive stall at the ASU 5 that led to a 22-yard field goal by Eddie Carmara with 6:20 left in the half that ended with the Bears trailing 19-10.
For the first time since Sept 1, the Bears play at home next week against two-time defending Southland Conference champion Stephen F. Austin.