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Author Topic: Bears Ready for Tough Opener  (Read 114 times)

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Seminole Indian

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Bears Ready for Tough Opener
« on: September 02, 2017, 08:06:24 am »

MANHATTAN, Kan. _  The University of Central Arkansas Bears have faced several Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams since moving to NCAA Division I in 2006, but never one that was considered one of the best 25 football teams in the nation.

That will change Saturday when the Bears face the No. 19/20 Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan.

The Bears, 10-3 a year ago, will open the 2017 season against the Wildcats, who were 9-4 a year ago, with a 33-28 win over Texas A&M in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl at Houston's NRG Stadium. UCA head coach Steve Campbell knows what kind of challenge awaits the Bears in Manhattan.

"Kansas State went 9-4 last year, and their four losses were to Stanford, a 10-win team,' said Campbell, who is entering his fourth season at UCA. "They lost to Oklahoma, who I think wound up going 10-3. Oklahoma State who was 10-3, and West Virginia who was 10-3. So they lost to  four 10-win football teams. And I told our guys, we were a 10-win football team, too. So we have every opportunity to go in there and win this football game.'

Campbell's Bears knocked off FBS Arkansas State 28-23 last September in Jonesboro, Ark., for their second win over an FBS school. ASU ended up winning the Sun Belt title and playing in its sixth consecutive bowl game. Kansas State will be an even bigger challenge. The Wildcats, under Hall of Fame Coach Bill Snyder, are picked third in the tough Big 12 Conference behind Okahoma and Oklahoma State.

Campbell said the FBS Wildcats will probably try to overpower and outlast the FCS Bears with both size and numbers.

"The thing with Kansas State is, they're going to check your D-line out pretty quick,' he said. "That's what they do. They're going to line down and run the football. They're going to throw it for around 150 yards or so,  They're not a team that's going to go no huddle and go up and down the field, throw the little out routes and quick game and stuff like that.

"They're going to run down with fullbacks and tight ends and they're going to hand the football off and come and try to make your nose bleed. So that's what we've been preparing for, that's what we've been working on. We're going to have some young guys in there doing it, but we're very excited about it. We're looking forward to the challenge.'

Campbell also praised the KSU defense, statistically one of the top units in the Big 12 a year ago.

"They had the No. 1-ranked defense in the Big 12 last year,' Campbell said. "And that league is a wide-open league. The Big 12 is air raid central, so they are used to playing a wide open type. So what we have to do is do a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage and protecting the football and give ourselves an opportunity to go and win this football game.'

The Bears return a senior starting quarterback in Hayden Hildenbrand, their leading rusher from a year ago in sophomore Carlos Blackman and most of its starting offensive from 2016. Missing, however, will be All-Southland Conference guard Stockton Mallett, who injured his shoulder in preseason camp and is out for the season.

The receiving corps will be without two of the program's best ever in Desmond Smith and Jatavious Wilson, both seniors last season, but could be as deep as it has been in recent years. Seniors Roman Gordon, Brandon Cox, Dwayne Smith and Jose Moore, along with juniors Jakari Dillard and Lester Wells, as well as redshirt freshman Joe Hampton and true freshman Brandon Myers should all be part of the rotation.

Defensively, the Bears will count heavily on senior cornerback Tre Smith, senior defensive end Chris Chambers, senior rover George Odum and senior safety Jaylon Lofton. UCA's special teams are in also in good and experienced hands with junior kicker Matt Cummins, senior punter Patrick Ponder and return specialists Cox and Tre Smith.

Kickoff for the first meeting between the teams is set for 6:10 Saturday. The UCA Bears Radio Network broadcast with Justin Acri and Chris Kane can be heard on The Point 94.1 and KUCA 91.3 and online at ucasports.com/KUCA. The game will also be on ESPN3.

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