Southland Notebook: UCA loses Smothers to injury

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

In a cruel twist of fate, the weakest team on Central Arkansas’ schedule may be the one that kills the Bears’ hopes for a return to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Quarterback Wynrick Smothers, the returning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was lost for the season when he broke his ankle in UCA’s 31-0 win over Division II Nebraska-Kearney.

The Bears led 17-0 in the third quarter when the injury occurred. The possession would have been Smothers’ last of the game with a UCA score, said Bears head coach Clint Conque.

“I’m very emotional for that family and that young man,” Conque said. “He’s been a tremendous ambassador and tremendous football player for our program.”

Smothers is the second-leading passer in the Southland and ranks fourth in school history with 6,290 yards of total offense.

“We’ve got to move forward,” Conque said. “He’ll be an inspiration to how our team responds to that.”

Doing so will be no easy task considering Smothers either ran or threw on three-quarters of UCA’s offensive snaps.

Conque said it will be quarterback by committee for UCA, with Ryan Howard starting and Memphis transfer Taylor Reed also getting snaps.

• STREAK SNAPPED: Nicholls State’s 33-21 win over Northwestern State was the Colonels’ first Southland win since 2010, snapping a 14-game conference losing streak.

Coach Charlie Stubbs said he is guarding against overconfidence, which has never been a issue in his previous three seasons.

“We’re excited to get a conference win. They’re so hard to come by,” Stubbs said. “The last few years we couldn’t finish … we’re starting to show signs we can handle adversity better. We were real solid in all three phases.

“The morale here is good, but I’m trying to keep them grounded because what got us here was playing with hard work and enthusiasm.”

• SOLID SHOWING: Lamar became the first team, other than North Dakota State, to hold Sam Houston State to fewer than 20 points in the Willie Fritz era in a 14-3 loss on Saturday.

It was a far cry from last year’s 56-7 massacre for the Bearkats.

“Defensively we did good enough to win the ballgame,” said Lamar coach Ray Woodard. “We felt we competed, but it’s a three-phase game. You don’t get to camp out in the red zone. We missed two field goals and had a (red-zone) interception. That comes back to haunt you.”

Woodard said his team can’t be satisfied with how it did against Sam Houston.

“If we sit here talking about playing Sam Houston hard, Central Arkansas will come beat us by 40,” Woodard said.

• NOT MUCH TO SAY: There weren’t many positives for Stephen F. Austin after a 56-14 loss at Southeastern Louisiana. But coach J.C. Harper did find one.

“The only thing I was proud of was our punter,” Harper said. “He continues to do an excellent job.”

Nick Bruno averaged 49.4 yards on five punts for the Lumberjacks.

The star of the game was SLU quarterback Bryan Bennett, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 337 yards — an average of 25.9 yards per completion.