Oct. 17, 2013
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Lamar Game Notes
Central Arkansas Game Notes
A week after their heartbreaking setback at No. 2 Sam Houston State, the Lamar Cardinals returns to action Saturday when it hosts nationally ranked Central Arkansas at 6 p.m. in Provost Umphrey Stadium. The game, against the nation's 20th-ranked team, will serve as Homecoming and the Southland Conference home opener for Lamar (3-3/0-1 SLC). It will be Lamar's second consecutive game against a ranked opponent for a Cardinal team (3-3/0-1 SLC) that is looking for its first win over a top-25 program since resurrecting the program for the 2010 season. Lamar has won two of its last three games, and nearly missed that top-25 victory last week in Huntsville taking two-time Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State down to the wire before falling short, 14-3. The Bears enter the week with an identical record to Lamar, and have also won two of their past three games.
Saturday's game will also be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Houston. Fans wishing to see a list of CSN Channel numbers can do so by clicking here.
"It is a great feeling to be back home again," said Lamar head coach Ray Woodard. "We have a great opportunity Saturday against a very good Central Arkansas team. UCA is one of the best teams in the country, ranked among the nation's top 20. I think a lot of people have forgotten that they beat Sam Houston State last season, and they went into the playoffs with the league's automatic bid. These are guys who are used to winning, and they are coming in here 0-1 and will be playing with a sense of urgency."
Despite the 0-6 mark against nationally ranked foes, the Cardinals, a program that is only in its fourth year of existence, has come close to picking up that signature win several times this season. Lamar stayed with FBS opponent Louisiana Tech but the Bulldogs were able to hold on in the final minutes for the win, and last week, the Cardinals held Walter Payton candidate Tim Flanders to less than 100 rushing, but offensive miscues hurt Lamar down the stretch.
Saturday's game has all the makings of another defensive struggle similar to what fans witnessed in Huntsville. Lamar continues to lead the Southland in total defense (309.8 ypg), while the Bears are second in that category (341 ypg). The Cardinals also top the Southland charts in scoring and passing defense. UCA is one of the better teams in the league against the run, currently ranked second surrendering 138 rushing yards per game.
The Cardinals will look to attack that run defense with senior Payton Ploch and freshman Kade Harrington. The duo is averaging more than 99 yards per game, led by Harrington who has 397 yards on 74 carries. Harrington enters Lamar's homecoming showdown only 211 shy of breaking school's 62-year old freshman rushing record.
Central Arkansas enters the game facing some adversity. Their Walter Payton Award candidate quarterback, Wynrick Smother, was sidelined last week with an ankle injury. Smothers, who is ranked among the nation's leaders in total offense, represented 72 percent of his team's total offense. Despite the loss of Smothers, UCA still has an intimidating offense that is led by four of the league's top receivers. The Bears currently have four of the league's top 10 reception leaders, led by junior Dezmin Lewis who has hauled in 28 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns.
"I hope people don't get caught up in the loss of their quarterback," said Woodard. "Smothers is a great talent, and you never want to see a young man's collegiate career come to an end due to an injury, but he wasn't the whole team. He was also surrounded by a lot of weapons, and they have one of the best defenses in the nation.
"We were able to see their backups on film from their last game so we had some film to break down. In addition to that, Coach (Clint) Conque and his staff always do a great job of preparing their kids to play," added Woodard.
"We're excited about getting back into conference play," said UCA head coach Clint Conque. "Lamar is a very explosive team in the kicking game, with (Kevin) Johnson returning kicks, so we are going to have to play our most complete game of the year to win in what is going to be a pretty tough environment."
History could be on Lamar's side for Saturday's game. The Cardinals are a game above .500 in homecoming contests (21-20-1), and 2-1 on homecoming since bringing back the program.
The Cardinals will be looking to do something Saturday they haven't accomplished since prior to the return of football. A win Saturday would put Lamar a game over .500 this late in the season for the first time since the 1979 season when LU started 4-2-1. That season, the Cardinals went on to post a 6-3-2 overall record.
Several promotions are scheduled for the annual homecoming contest. Along with the annual homecoming festivities, the first 1,000 fans will receive a cow bell courtesy of BASF Total Petrochemicals LLC. The Kids Zone will once again take place on the practice fields next to Provost Umphrey Stadium. It will consist of bouncy houses from DelivertheFun.com. The Lamar soccer team will also be on hand to paint faces and sign autographs. The Kids Zone is set to open at 3:30 p.m. and is for children ages 12 and under.
The Bretten Low Ban is also returning to Provost Umphrey Stadium for a live performance prior to kickoff. The concert will take place at the northwest end of Provost Umphrey Stadium beginning at 4 p.m., and will last until just before kickoff. Tailgating will remain open following the game for all fans until midnight.