The No.7/9 Central Arkansas Bears now have their FCS Playoff second-round opponent after No. 13/14 Illinois State beat No. 12/13 Southeastern Missouri 24-6 last Saturday.
It was a game where the Redbirds ran all over the Redhawks, totaling 340 total rushing yards on 59 attempts.
Senior running back James Robinson got a bulk of the carries with 41 and a large chunk of the rushing yards with 297.
He had one touchdown during the game, but averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
I turned the SEMO/Illinois State game on as the third quarter was coming to a close and the announcers of the game praised Robinson throughout and rightfully so.
They mentioned that despite the Redhawks stacking nine players in the box, knowing that they were going to have to stop Robinson was going to be key, there was no stopping Robinson.
Illinois State’s starting junior quarterback Brady Davis has been out and with that knowledge, as well as knowing how dangerous Robinson could be, SEMO dared the Redbirds to run.
Indeed they did as just seven passes were thrown by freshman Bryce Jefferson, including one that went for a touchdown.
During Monday’s Bear Backers luncheon, UCA coach Nathan Brown said his Bears are going to have to win first and second down instead of winning third downs.
He said UCA will have to force ISU to third and longer situations to cause the Redbirds to pass.
It’s a pretty sound strategy to stop a runner that has amassed 4,158 yards and 42 touchdowns on 736 carries in his four-year career.
As players generally do, Robinson’s yards per season has increased each season, starting with 322 during his freshman season on 63 attempts, to 933 yards on 165 his sophomore season, to 1,290 yards on 205 attempts his junior season and 1,613 on 303 attempts his senior season.
Robinson will be a tough stop, but for a Bears defense that ranks 39th in stopping the run this season, their work will be cut out for them.
However, there is some familiarity with the Redbirds as the Bears beat ISU in the first round of the 2016 FCS Playoffs 31-24 in UCA’s first-ever home Division I playoff game.
The two teams also matched up as the Bears made the trip to Normal, Illinois, to play in their first-ever Division I football game.
The weather should be nice, so get out to Estes Stadium at 2 p.m. and enjoy a good game.
Elsewhere in the FCS Playoffs, both Nicholls State and Southeastern Louisiana picked up first-round wins as Nicholls beat North Dakota at home 24-6, while SLU was involved in a thriller that it managed to pull out after giving a 2019 UCA-like effort, coming from behind by 17 at halftime to win 45-44.
The Lions scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:51 left in the game and forced a Villanova turnover on downs to advance to the second round.
Nicholls advances to the seemingly impossible task of heading to the Fargo Dome in Fargo, North Dakota, to play the undefeated and winners of eight of the last nine FCS Championships North Dakota State.
SLU advances to play the No. 8 Montana in Missoula, Montana.