University of Central Arkansas coach Steve Campbell expected the physical Saturday against Northwestern State, which presented a strong defensive front.
“It was a straight toughness football game,” he said at Monday’s weekly Bearbacker luncheon after the 24-10 victory over the Demons that put the Bears 2-0 in the Southland Conference race.
Among the players who stepped up physically was senior running back Antwon Wells, who rushed for 129 yards on 25 carries, double his total in the two prevous games.
“He’s a tremendously hard-working young man,” said Campbell.
The Bears went into the game allowing 5 yards per rush by an opponent. Northwestern State rushed for 169 yards, half of that on three plays.
“Our defensive philosophy is stop the run, period,” Campbell said. “When you do that, you make a team one-dimensional. You’ve got to be able to take something away. They got more rushing yards than we would like, but we still held them to 304 total yards, which is pretty good.”
Campbell said he was particularly pleased with the special teams progress.
“It was our best overall game in that aspect,” he said. “Patrick Ponder punted for a 53-yard average. George Odum made some plays on our special coverage units. Matt Cummins missed a 52-yard field goal but he made a 33-yarder later that gave us a cushion. I like the way Tremon Smith is catching the football on punts.”
Saturday, the Bears play their first out-of-town game — against Arkansas State at Jonesboro.
The Red Wolves, defending Sun Belt champions, are 0-3.
“That’s deceptive; they are a very good football team,” Campbell said. “Last year, they started 1-3 but then went on to win the Sun Belt title. They’ve played a tough schedule. They’ve lost to Toledo, which should be a bowl team. They’ve lost to Utah State, which should be a bowl team. They’ve lost to Auburn and they are almost always in a bowl.”
That game will begin at 6 p.m. at Centennial Bank Stadium.