After an unseasonably cold during the annual Purple/Gray game Saturday afternoon, UCA football coach Nathan Brown liked what he saw out of his offense and defense.
The defense forced three turnovers: a tipped interception in the end zone and two fumbles inside the red zone.
In a modified scoring system that gave the Gray (the defense) six points for a turnover and one for a stop, the defenders prevailed, 28-27, on a stop in the final second seconds at Estes Stadium.
“The defense played such good situational football,” Brown said. “At times, they were a bend, but don’t break. They gave up some chunk plays here and there. There may have been some questionable sack calls where if we were going at game speed, we probably could have brought the quarterback down. The referees allowed those kinds of plays to go.
“I believe we did a good job of stopping the offense four times inside the 5-yard line. We had numerous fourth- down stops and held the offense to field goals several times in the red zone.”
A pair of big plays went for a touchdown, while another resulted in a fumble on the next play.
Sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith of Conway connected with senior wide receiver Dwayne Smith on a 62-yard touchdown, while freshman back Cameron Myers ran for 84 yards.
Myers fumbled on the next play, but Brown is confident in the freshman.
“It’s a great teaching moment for a young freshman, who fumbled it early in the game,” he said. “He had an 84-yard run and then fumbles the next play. It is a good learning experience for a true freshman [who joined the Bears as a December graduate]. It’s his prom night tonight [Saturday].
“His high school is having prom tonight and that kid should be going and putting his tux on. He has been here and has been through 15 college practices as a 17-year-old should-be senior in high school. We’ll get it corrected. We’ll get in here Monday and watch film and get it corrected.”
Junior Carlos Blackman also fumbled, however, Brown is pleased about his running back group.
“I thought all three running backs ran hard; really the whole running back group looked good,” he said.
The running backs ran for 290 yards.
Brown continues to be pleased with Breylin Smith and freshman Lujuan Winningham.
“Breylin continued to show a lot of poise,” he said. “He just steps up and knows where to go with the football. Lujuan Winningham continues to make plays. He’s a freshman who is going to be a great player for us. He has to mature in a few things that are just freshman mistakes. Really, there are a lot of big plays being made on both side of the football.”
Breylin Smith completed 15 of 19 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He also connected with senior Jakari Dillard for a touchdown.
Besides the Smith-to-Smith touchdown, the offense [the Purple] scored on a 5-yard pass from Breylin Smith to Jakari Dillard a 13-yard pass from Kirk Baugh to Winnningham, a 38-yard field goal by Hayden Ray and a 34-yard field goal by Matt Cummins.
At times, the offense struggled to put the ball in the end zone when it was in the red zone.
“I think any time you’re turning the ball over and getting stopped at the goal line there are areas of concern,” Brown said. “I do know that our goal line and short-yard packages are not in yet, so you’re kind of handcuffed at times with situational football on offense. You definitely want to protect the football.
“The fumble inside the 5-yard line and the tipped ball in the end zone, that can’t happen. You just have to know where you are on the field and take advantage of your kicker getting some field goals. I was definitely disappointed, but it is something that easily correctable.”
The Bears will now head to the offseason in preparation for Brown's first season as a head coach.