LAKE CHARLES, La. (UCA) -- The University of Central Arkansas
Bears needed a perfect pass and catch and a pair of perfect kicks in the
final 1:10 to pull out a 27-26 victory over the McNeese State Cowboys
on Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium.
Junior quarterback Wynrick Smothers hit sophomore Dezmin Lewis for a
leaping, twisting touchdown catch with 1:10 remaining that got UCA
within 26-24. Freshman Jace Denker, seeing his first action in a month,
then executed the onside kick with Lewis recovering at the McNeese 38.
Four plays later, sophomore placekicker Eddie Camara came on and nailed
the longest field goal of his career, a 47-yarder, that won it for the
No. 17 UCA improved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference,
winning at Lake Charles for the first time in the series. It was the
first time the road team won in seven games and gives UCA the overall
lead at 4-3 in the series, the only team in the league with a winning
record against the Cowboys.
"First of all, I was just hoping to get the opportunity,' said Camara,
who also made a 41-yarder in the second quarter before setting a career
mark with the game winner. "We had to go through an onside kick first,
and then after we got that, I knew it was going to come down to me. I
was just trying to get my mind right and hoping for the opportunity, and
"I was just glad I kicked it like I did. This was my longest kick in this uniform and I'm just grateful I got the opportunity.'
The Cowboys (4-2, 1-2) have lost their two SLC games by a combined two
points, losing to Southeastern Louisiana on a two-point conversion in
the final seconds back on Sept. 22.
McNeese extended its two-point halftime lead to 19-10 on a Marcus Wiltz
12-yard run with 10:16 left in the fourth quarter. UCA got back to
within 19-17 on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Wynrick Smothers to Jesse
Grandy at the 8:14 mark.
Wiltz struck again from 29 yards out to give the Cowboys a seemingly
safe 26-17 lead with just 3:28 to play. But Smothers, a junior from
Destrehan, La., drove the Bears 72 yards in 13 plays, hitting Lewis in
the right corner of the end zone on second and 10 from the 19. Lewis
came donw in traffic with one foot in the end zone to give close the gap
Denker then came on and kicked a high bouncer toward the UCA sideline that Lewis secured at the McNeese 38.
"Dezmin just made a heck of a catch after Wynrick extended the play,'
said UCA head coach Clint Conque. "I told our team at halftime that our
special teams play would probably be the one to list us. Then I came
down to Eddie and I said, "look, it's probably going to come down to a
field goal. And it certainly did, and that's a career long and he banged
it and we made it hold up.'
McNeese took over at its own 30 with 23 seconds left. Stroud threw
incomplete on first down and was sacked by Justin Williams for an 8-yard
loss on second down. Facing third and 18 with 6 seconds left, Stroud
passed to Earnest Celestie and after numerous laterals, Jestin Love
tackled Celestie way back at the McNeese 5 to end it.
"What a great game and what a finish,' said Conque. "Just a typical
UCA-McNeese State game. We were down to five offensive linemen because
of injuries and suspensions and whatever. But you know what, I told our
staff on Thursday or Friday, we're going to coach the ones that want to
be here, coach the ones that are here, and it will be one of the most
rewarding wins we've had here. And it was.'
Smothers completed 26 of 41 passes for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns and
added a team-high 33 rushing yards. Grandy caught 4 passes for 93 yards
and a pair of touchdowns and finished with 189 all-purpose yards. Wiltz
ran for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Cowboys, who missed a
costly point-after following their first touchdown of the game in the
UCA returns home to face the Lamar Cardinals at 6 p.m. Saturday at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.