A thriller in Conway, Arkansas concluded with a 31-30 victory for the Central Arkansas Bears (3-0) over ACU (1-2) Saturday night.
Sophomore quarterback Breylin Smith led the way for the Bears, throwing for 367 yards and two touchdowns. Despite the win, UCA struggled offensively until in the fourth quarter when they scored 22 points.
ACU Head Coach Dorrel emphasized UCA’s pass game ultimately was the factor in the fourth quarter.
“The deep ball killed us,” Dorrel said. “It’s something that we’ve gotta fix moving forward.”
The Wildcats led the game 27-17 after a touchdown pass from Junior quarterback Luke Anthony to sophomore running back Tyrese White with just 11:00 remaining. Anthony finished the night 24-41, 322 yards and a touchdown.
Following the game, Dorrel accredited his solid performance and his ability to make wise decisions throwing the ball.
“He’s doing a lot of really great things,” Dorrel said. “The thing I take away from tonight isn’t the throws he made, it’s the throws he didn’t make. He knew when the protection wasn’t good and only forced one deep ball tonight.”
After the Wildcats extended their lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, UCA answered back with a kickoff returned into ACU territory. The Bears took advantage of the field position with a 45-yard touchdown drive in three plays to cut the lead to three.
Sophomore kicker Blair Zepeda drilled a 33-yard field goal with 5:28 remaining to give ACU a little more cushion, but it wasn’t enough. UCA’s Smith led a game-winning drive of 72 yards in nine plays to put the Bears ahead by one.
With 1:30 remaining in the game, Anthony and the Wildcats took the field, reaching the UCA 29 with :35 second remaining. Following a timeout by the Bears to ice the kicker, Zepeda missed the potential game-winning 46-yard field goal.
Zepeda finished the night three for five on field goal attempts including a career-long 51-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Despite the tough loss, coach says it’s about looking forward to what’s next.
“I was really proud of our team and felt like we played well enough to win tonight,” Dorrel said.”We just got to regroup and get that energy back up and get ready to go for next week. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
With the loss Saturday, ACU falls to 1-2 on the season and 0-1 in conference play. They will be back at Wildcat Stadium, Saturday when they face McNeese St. at 6 p.m. Meanwhile, UCA looks to stay undefeated as they travel to Manoa, Hawaii to face the University of Hawaii (2-1).