Last Modified: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 9:27 PM
More than ever before, the Central Arkansas offense has become the Wynrick Smothers Show.
And if McNeese is to win in UCA’s Estes Stadium for the first time on Saturday, it will have to slow down the scrambling senior from Destrehan.
“Wynrick Smothers is a winner,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “With what he does and the way he carries himself, he always gives them a chance in every game.”
Smothers led UCA to a share of the Southland Conference title last season. The Bears (2-2) enter Saturday ranked 15th in the country, four spots behind McNeese (4-1). UCA’s losses came to Football Bowl Subdivision Colorado (38-24) and Football Championship Subdivision No. 22 Tennessee-Martin (24-23).
“He’s a dual threat,” said McNeese senior safety Terence Cahee. “We could have great coverage and he’ll pull the ball down and if we get out of our rushing lanes he can pick up a first down. We had a lot of good coverage last year, and he’d break away for 5 or 10 yards. That was a big difference.”
Win or lose, UCA is almost completely reliant on Smothers.
The Bears are dead last in the Southland in rushing, averaging 83.2 yards per game. Smothers has either thrown or run it himself on 73.4 percent of UCA’s offensive snaps. He’s second in the league with 288 passing yards per game, but only eighth in passing efficiency due to six interceptions.
UCA coach Clint Conque said his running game must get better to keep Smothers from having to do too much.
“The run game isn’t even the elephant in the room. We have to present a run game to take pressure off our quarterback,” Conque said. “Three of his interceptions were deflected balls. We are asking him to do a lot.
“We feel better about our receiving corps, but certainly we have to present a more effective run game to take pressure off of Smothers.”
UCA’s inability to run the ball has at least been offset by its defense’s ability to stop opponents from doing the same. The Bears have surrendered a league-low two rushing touchdowns and are second behind Sam Houston State with 117 yards per game allowed on the ground.
Five UCA defensive players were named to the preseason all-conference team, and the unit has lived up to the hype, ranking second in the Southland in fewest points allowed.
However, the Bears will be without one of the most crucial members of that defense.
According to UCA’s student newspaper, starting linebacker Justin Heard was suspended three games for using his own scholarship money to purchase text books for his younger brother, Josh, a violation of NCAA rules.
UCA officials said Heard violated team rules.
Heard was UCA’s leading tackler last season and had a fumble recovery against McNeese in 2011.