Bears are wary of Cardinals

Posted: November 10, 2017 at 2:19 a.m.

Coaches have a way of disregarding win-loss records.

Though the Central Arkansas Bears next face a team with one victory in nine games played, Coach Steve Campbell sounds concerned. UCA (8-1, 7-0 Southland), ranked No. 3 in the NCAA FCS coaches' and STATS polls, will play the Incarnate Word Cardinals (1-8, 1-6) on Saturday at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

"I haven't figured them out yet, because they're a well-coached team with a lot of talent," Campbell said. "They just haven't been able to get into the win column as often as I'm sure they've wanted to."

UCA is currently on an eight-game winning streak, whereas Incarnate Word has lost three consecutive games since its 33-24 victory over Lamar on Oct. 14.

Despite their team's lack of success, senior Derrick Mitchel has rushed for 569 yards and 4 touchdowns. Junior Ra'Quanne Dickens has rushed for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Sean Trophy has completed 56.9 percent of his passes for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns.

"They have a lot of good athletes," Campbell said. "I think they have some of the best running backs in the league, and their quarterback can throw the football."

Among its losses, Incarnate Word played within 37-31 of Stephen F. Austin, which led UCA late in the fourth quarter before it fell, 24-20, at Estes Stadium in Conway on Oct. 14. It lost 38-31 to Nichols State, ranked 17th in the coaches' poll.

"They've played some good teams really tough," Campbell said. "They are a completely capable team."

Road trips no concern

The UCA Bears have won four their five road games this season, including four consecutive in the Southland Conference. Coach Steve Campbell said he and his players like to look at games away from Conway's Estes Stadium in a positive light.

"We've played really well on the road," Campbell said. "I think road trips have given our guys a chance to get some focus and rest."

UCA plans to leave Conway for its game with Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, at 7 a.m. today. Campbell said they expect the trip to last about 11 hours.

Whereas Campbell said he is confident UCA will benefit from the trip to San Antonio, he looks least forward to the ride through the night back to Conway.

"Coming home's the worst," Campbell said. "Not getting back home until the next day is the only bad part of a road trip."

Wide receiver depth

Last season, UCA's two leading receivers were all-time stars at the school. There was a large gap between the catches and receiving yards of Desmond Smith and Jatavious Wilson and other receivers on the roster.

Smith caught 70 passes for 893 yards in 2016. Wilson caught 63 for 891. UCA's third-leading receiver caught 20.

There is not nearly so much separation among UCA's top receivers this season. A total of 17 players have caught at least one pass. Nine have caught five, led by seniors Brandon Cox and Roman Gordon. Cox has caught 30 passes for 567 yards and 3 touchdowns and Gordon 26 for 523 and 6 touchdowns.

Close behind are junior Lester Wells with 21 catches for 258 yards and 3 touchdowns and junior Jakari Dillard with 17 for 261 and 1 touchdown. Freshman Brandon Myers has caught 14 for 251 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Hayden Hildebrand has improved his completion percentage from 60.4 in 2016 to 67.9 this season.

"Now Hayden knows he has a lot of weapons at his disposal, and I think that's been good," Campbell said. "He can get the ball to a lot of different people, and I think that's expanded his options. His completion percentage and his efficiency have gone up. Now he can spread the ball around, and those guys have done a great job of making plays."

Sports on 11/10/2017