Cowboys defense must find a way to stop UCA's Smothers

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

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.