Red Wolves handle Bears to win opener
A- State takes battle of in- state rivals against UCA
From A-State Media www.astate.edu Arkansas State got three second-half touchdown passes from Layne Hatcher to Corey Rucker to down the University of Central Arkansas Bears 40-21 on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 15,662 at Centennial Bank Stadium.
Hatcher, a junior who was The Red Wolves came out on top of their 2021 season ContinuedonPage11 openeragainsttheBearsofCentralArkansas40-21.
Photo courtesy of UCA RED WOLVES (cont.)
ASU’s co-starter last season, came off the bench to complete all 12 of his passes, with three of those going for touchdowns to Rucker that covered 34, 8 and 33 yards, and another 5-yarder to Te’Vaila Hunt, all in the second half. The Bears got a 7-yard touchdown pass from junior Breylin Smith to junior Lujuan Winningham that kept the Bears within 20-14 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter. But the ASU duo of Hatcher and Rucker hooked up twice within 30 seconds to push the Red Wolves’ lead out to 33-14 with 11:17 remaining.
Smith found Winningham again from 14 yards out to keep it a two-score game with 7:33 remaining but Hatcher struck again to Hunt to put it out of reach.
Winningham, a junior from Humble, Texas, had his second consecutive big game against the Red Wolves, with six receptions for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A year ago, Winningham had three touchdowns among his four receptions. His counterpart on the other side of UCA’s offense, All-American Tyler Hudson, caught seven passes for 118 yards, a year after catching 12 for 154 yards against ASU.
“I thought we made some big plays, we did some good things,’ said UCA head coach Nathan Brown.
“But I thought the first half we left some opportunities out there on offense, that if we could have capitalized on, it could have been a different game and we could have had some momentum going into halftime. Then we came out in the second half and we just wore down. We got tired on defense, we were on the field too much in the second half defensively.
“But they did a good job with some matchup stuff. I thought Layne Hatcher came in for them and really solidified the quarterback position and made plays.
I’ve always said he’s a winner, he’s a bulldog, he’s a guy that is going to move the chains, and that’s what he did. And we didn’t handle that very well. But I thought our defense played really well all night. Forty points is not indicative of how I thought they played.’ The Bears scored the only first-half touchdown on their second possession of the game, which came after an ASU fumble that was forced by Cameron Godfrey and recovered by junior Deandre Lamont at the UCA 34. Smith then connected with sophomore wide receiver Christian Richmond on the first play from scrimmage for a 66yard touchdown at the 9:53 mark of the first quarter.
Richmond, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, caught five passes for 71 yards and returned four kickoffs for 100 yards.
“Christian had a seasonending knee injury last year,’ said Brown. “But we saw flashes early in the year. He’s a special player and he’s going to get more and more opportunities. I was really pleased with the way Christian played RED WOLVES (cont.)
tonight.’ From there, both defenses held when they needed to as the Red Wolves managed a pair of field goal from Blake Grupe, from 38 yards at the 7:08 mark of the first period and from 42 yards with just 1:14 remaining in the half for the only other scores of the half.
Smith finished the half completing 10 of 18 passes for 137 yards, which Richmond grabbing five for 71 yards. The Bears had 153 total yards of offense at the break but just 16 rushing yards. ASU totaled 214 first-half yards but was held out of the end zone as the Bears forced a pair of fumbles and recorded six tackles for loss.
The second half featured considerably more offense from both sides. The Red Wolves got a rushing touchdown from Alan Lamar before Hatcher took over and ended up going 8 of 8 for 126 yards and four touchdowns in the second half. ASU finished with 513 yards of offense, with 319 through the air. The Bears had 338 yards, but just 42 of those came on the ground Starting running back Cameron Myers was limited with a slight knee injury, leaving most of the carries to true freshman Darius Hale (13 carries for 28 yards) and second-year freshman Marshun Douglas (2 for 22). Smith completed 23 of 42 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns,
“We have to establish more of a run game quicker,’ said Brown. “I think we’re going to be better in the run game. I think we have talented running backs and I think our offensive line has a chance to be really good. But their front seven was special. I really believe that. They’ve got some transfers and some guys who pushed the pile and did a good job.
“We just didn’t turn and hand the ball very much because we got behind the sticks. I don’t know that either one of them could get really greased up and move the ball because we couldn’t give them the ball enough. But I think we’ll see the best of those guys moving forward.’ The Bears were just 1 of 12 on third-down conversions while the Red Wolves were 7 of 15.
“You can’t win games going 1 of 10 or 1 of 12 or whatever it was,’ said Brown. “Especially on the road against an FBS opponent the caliber of an Arkansas State. We have to address it. We have to work it in practice, we have to put a point of emphasis on it and we have to be intentional with our practice reps.’ Lamont topped the defensive chart with a careerhigh 11 tackles, while second- year freshman TaMuarion Wilson added a career-high 10. Sophomore defensive end Logan Jessup had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss among his five tackles.
The Bears return to the road next Saturday, taking on the Missouri State Bears at 7 p.m. in Springfield, Mo. UCA swept MSU in a pair of games last fall.