Photo Courtesy: UCA Athletics
BOULDER, Colo. (UCA) -- There is only one week's worth of evidence so far this season, but at least for now, the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) schools are holding their own with the "big boys."
Seven FCS teams knocked off Football Bowl Championship (FBS) teams last weekend, including schools from the Pac-12, the Big 12, the American Athletic Conference, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt losing on opening week. The number increases to eight if you count one team in transition.
The fifth-ranked University of Central Arkansas Bears would like nothing better than to join the party on Saturday when they take on the Pac-12's Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field in Boulder. The Bears have one victory over an FBS team, 28-7 over Western Kentucky in 2009, and a couple of close calls with Hawaii, Arkansas State and Louisiana Tech. UCA also led Ole Miss at halftime last year before falling.
The Bears will have several obstacles to overcome to join the list of FCS winners in 2013. FBS schools have 85 scholarships compared to 63 for the FCS division. On top of that depth advantage, the altitude in Boulder is 5,430 feet above sea level, considerably higher than the 312 feet the Bears are accustomed to in Conway. UCA arrived in Boulder on Thursday to try to acclimate to the change.
And the Buffs, a year after finishing 1-11, look to be much improved this season with the return of a top receiver and running back.
"It's a huge challenge in all three phases," said UCA head coach Clint Conque, "but it's certainly one we embrace. There's a new head coach and I have a lot of respect for what he (Mike MacIntyre) did at San Jose State. They're off to a fast start. It's a different culture and a different team this year.
"But the FCS branded itself well last weekend, and hopefully we can do the same this week.'
UCA is coming off a 58-7 victory over Incarnate Word in last Thursday's season opener at First Security Field at Estes Stadium. In that win, UCA's 12th straight on "The Stripes," the Bears rolled up 537 yards of total offense while allowing just 231. UCA scored on its first five possessions of the game to end the suspense early.
Four players scored their first career touchdowns at UCA, including two rushing touchdowns each by sophomore running backs Blake Veasley and Danzel Williams. Freshman receiver Jatavious Wilson scored three times, two TD receptions and a 93-yard kickoff return, while redshirt freshman receiver Desmond Smith recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for his first career score. Senior quarterback Wynrick Smothers completed 27 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown in just more than a half of play.
Wilson earned the Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week award for his efforts.
The Buffaloes beat in-state rival Colorada State 41-27 in Denver's Mile High Stadium. Colorado had 509 yards of offense, with 400 passing yards. Both teams had a player catch 10 passes in the opener. UCA junior Blake Gardner had a career-high 10 for 61 yards while UC's Paul Richardson caught 10 passes for 208 and a pair of touchdowns.
Quarterback Connor Wood completed 33-of-46 passes for 400 yards and three touchdowns.
Six Southland schools are facing FBS teams this weekend. McNeese State was one of the teams to upset an FBS team last week, beating South Florida 53-21 in Tampa. This week's slate includes Sam Houston State at No. 7 Texas A&M, Southeastern Louisiana at No. 24 TCU, Nicholls at Western Michigan, Stephen F. Austin at Texas Tech and Lamar at Louisiana Tech.
The Bears-Buffs game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network and aired locally on the radio on 106.7 The Heartbeat and KUCA 91.3.