UCA (0-0) vs.
INCARNATE WORD (0-0)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
First Security Field at Estes Stadium, Conway,
Media: KUCA 91.3 FM, Heartbeat 106.7, www.ucasports.com
2012 RECAP: The Bears went 9-3,winning nine games for the second straight season and for the third time since moving to Division I in 2006.
UCA reached the second round of the FCS Playoffs for the second straight season, losing to perennial power Georgia Southern on the road. The Bears have yet to host an FCS playoff game in two seasons.
UCA finished first in the Southland Conference last season for the second time since 2008. The Bears were a league-best
6-1 in 2008 but were ineligible for the league title because of the transition from Division II. UCA (6-1) was co-champion with Sam Houston State last season,a team the Bears beat 24-20 in Conway on Sept. 22 to earn the league’s automatic bid to the playoffs.
UCA won four of the seven individual postseason awards given by the SLC,including Coach of the Year, Freshman of the Year(DE Jonathan Woodard), Offensive Player of the Year (QB Wynrick Smothers) and Offensive Lineman of the Year (Corey Howard).
MISSING IN ACTION: The Bears will have five players suspended to begin the 2013 season, including starting running back Willie Matthews for the opening game against UIW.
Matthews will miss one game, while junior offensive lineman C.J. Simon, junior receiver Jacoby Walker, junior offensive lineman Jordan Kersh and redshirt freshman receiver Wyatt Hikins will miss the first two games. All are due to violations of team rules, according to head coach Clint Conque.
THE LEAGUE: The Bears have been members of the Southland Conference since they moved to Division I FCS in 2006. UCA’s record in SLC games is officially 29-13. The Bears also beat two SLC teams (Sam Houston & Stephen F.Austin) in their first year in the league when they did not play a full league schedule.
The Cardinals are brand new members of the Southland Conference, but will not play a full schedule until 2014. UIW, because of its transition from NCAA Division II, similar to what UCA did in 2006, will not be fully eligible for an SLC title until 2017.
NATIONAL POLLS: The Bears, who closed the 2012 season ranked 10th in the two national FCS polls, are ranked No. 6 in the Coaches Preseason Poll and No. 7 in The Sports Network poll.
UCA will play seven teams this season that are either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason polls. That includes two-time national runner up Sam Houston State. The Bears also face FBS Colorado on the road in Week 2.
UCA has finished in the Top 25 in four of its seven seasons at the NCAA Division I level.
PRESEASON ALL-SLC: UCA had 12 student-athletes selected overall and a league-high nine first-team selections on the preseasonAll-Southland Conference football team selected by the coaches.
The Bears, co-champions in the SLC last season, were led by reigning SLC Offensive Player of the Year Wynrick Smothers, a senior quarterback from Destrehan, La., and last year’s Freshman of the Year, defensive end Jonathan Woodard of Brentwood, Tenn.
Both were on the first-team squad, along with junior wide receiver Dezmin Lewis,junior offensive lineman Cole Caruthers, junior placekicker Eddie Camara, senior defensive lineman Matt Hornbuckle, senior linebacker Justin Heard and senior defensive back Radarius Winston.
Second-team selections were senior offensive lineman Dominque Allen, sophomore offensive lineman Kyle Stouffer and senior defensive back Marcus Peters.
SIX PACK: The Bears won six conference games last season for the third time since 2006, the only school in the SLC to do that. UCA was 6-1 in 2008, 2011 and 2012. UCA is the only SLC team to have three nine-win seasons during that time period.
SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME: Five UCA players were named to preseason Watch Lists at the FCS level. They include: senior quarterback Wynrick Smothers (Walter Payton Award); senior safety Jestin Love(Buck Buchanan Award),and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Woodard, senior tight end Chase Dixon and junior placekicker Eddie Camara (College Football Performance Awards).
TOP FRESHMEN: Coach Conque has indicated that at least four true freshman are expected to see action early this season, with as many as 6 to 8 possible throughout the season.
Those expected to play early include wide receiver Jatavious Wilson (Bastrop, La.), defensive lineman Terrence Partee
(Memphis), offensive lineman Bryan Manley (Stephenville, Texas). and noseguard Jordan Toliver (Duncanville, Texas).
Others that could see action are offensive linemen Stockton Mallett (Yellville) and Gilberto Garcia (Morrilton) and safety Tirell Wellmaker (Lake Charles, La.).
NATIONAL RANKINGS: Then-junior quarterback Wynrick Smothers finished last season ranked 12th in total offense (296.0 yards per game) and 15th in passing efficiency (145.6) among FCS schools.
UCA was 10th in scoring offense (34.83), 10th in tackles for loss (7.58), 13th in punt returns (13.65) and 17th in passing efficiency (146.28)as a team. The Bears were also 22nd in passing offense (266.58), 25th in turnover margin (.50) and 26th in sacks (2.5).
ON THE STRIPES: Through two seasons, the Bears are a perfect 11-0 on “The Stripes”, their unique purple & gray striped turf field. UCA hosts six games at home this season at First Security Field at Estes Stadium, including two Southland Television Network games and one on ESPN3.
Over the past seven seasons, UCA’s home record is 32-6, including 7-0 in 2008, 5-0 in 2011 and 6-0 last season.
The turf is GeoSurface, the same that was put down on UCA’s baseball field (Bear Stadium) and softball field (Farris Field) over the past three years. The field features alternating purple and gray panels every five yards, with a large midfield logo and two large logos behind both end zones.
UCA was the last team in the Southland Conference to change from natural grass to artificial turf in 2011.
NEW FACES: The Bears have two new coaches on the staff this season, but they certainly aren’t new to the program.
Former UCA offensive lineman Robert “Boomer” Cunningham and former UCA linebacker Seth Allison have joined the staff.
Cunningham, from St. Louis, played for the Bears from 2006-2008 and was a graduate assistant the past two seasons. Cunningham is director of football operations and recruiting coordinator.
Allison, from Jonesboro, was a first-team All-SLC linebacker in 2011 and 2012. He earned his MBA from UCA in 2012. Allison is assistant defensive backs coach.