Defenses dominate UCA spring game
CONWAY - The University of Central Arkansas Bears were split evenly for their annual Purple-Gray Game that closed spring practice on a beautiful Saturday night at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
But the two defenses quickly made it an uneven night.
"I thought the defense played very physical and very fast, both teams," UCA head football coach Clint Conque said. "For the first time in a scrimmage situation, we matched up our first offensive line and our first defensive line, and certainly the defensive line got the better of it.
"I've like the way our core (offensive) front seven have played the entire spring. I thought last week in our second major scrimmage, the offense had their way. But tonight, no question, the defense really dominated.'
The Purple beat the Gray 17-7, with All-Southland Conference quarterback Wynrick Smothers throwing a 24-yard touchdown pass to junior Dezmin Lewis for the Gray's only score. Sophomore running back Blake Veasley broke off a 55-yard touchdown run for the Purple.
Junior quarterback Ryan Howard hit sophomore Courtney Whitehead with a 55-yard touchdown pass and junior placekicker Eddie Camara added a 44-yard field goal to round out the scoring.
"I think you saw flashes out of (receivers) Courtney Whitehead, Dezmin Lewis, Desmond Smith," Conque said. " I thought Ryan Howard had a really nice night. I'm not sure Wynrick played on of his better games. But I think any time you split up teams, particulary from an offensive perspective, you're going to have some continuity issues.
"But we have a quarterback-center exchange fumble in the red zone in the 15th practice... that's just unacceptable. And particularly coming off a long sustained drive. Too many penalties, The Gray team got behind the chains quite a few times in the second half, either via penalty or lost-yardage play. First and 10s are very difficult, but when you're talking about second and 12, 14, 15 yards, that's even more difficult.
"It was just a defensive night. They flew around, they dominated the line of scrimmage. Of course, the offense didn't help themselves, either side, with penalties and some lost-yardage plays. We're long and athletic and physical on defense and we have to get there on offense. And it starts up front. We didn't have a good night up front at all.'
Veasley finished with a game-high 72 rushing yards on just six carries for the Purple. Junior Willie Matthews led the Gray with 36 yards on 15 carries. Howard was 13 of 19 for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Purple, and 3 of 4 for 23 yards with the Gray. Smothers completed 19 of 28 for 165 yards, with 1 touchdown and a pair of interceptions (Jestin Love, Haywood Jeffries).
Smith, a redshirt freshman from Bentonville, had 5 receptions for 27 yards, while Lewis caught 4 passes for 94 yards. Whitehead, a transfer from Air Force, caught 4 for 66 yards for the Purple.
"I like the way (redshirt freshman linebacker) Aum'Arie Wallace played, said Conque. "He really ran around the field. He continues to get better playing that nickel position, which is a critical need for us with the graduation of Seth Allison. And Ricky Wyatt did some really good things as well.
"I thought overall we tackled well for the most part.'
Wallace, from Pulaski Academy, had a game-high 10 tackles, including a tackle for loss. Sophomore linebacker Ricky Wyatt had 9 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries. Junior linebacker Blake Childress topped the Gray with 7 tackles, while redshirt freshman defensive end Tony Winslow had 5 tackles, including two quarterback sacks.