CONWAY - Freshman receiver Jatavious Wilson did a little bit of everything and senior quarterback Wynrick Smothers was a model of efficiency as the No. 6 University of Central Arkansas Bears turned in a convincing 58-7 season-opening victory over the Incarnate Word Cardinals in front of a crowd of 10,455 on Thursday night at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.
Smothers, the reigning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year, completed 27 of 31 passes (87 percent) for 267 yards and a touchdown in a little more than a half of action. Wilson, a 5-foot-9, 171-pound true freshman from Bastrop, La., caught four passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, and also returned a kickoff 93 yards for another touchdown. Wilson finished with 215 all-purpose yards in his first game at UCA.
The Bears turned in their largest margin of victory since moving to NCAA Division I in 2006. The last margin of 50-plus points was in the 2005 season opener against Eastern New Mexico. With the victory, UCA remained perfect on "The Stripes," improving to 12-0 since 2011.
Sophomore running back Blake Veasley of Cherry Valley added two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter for the Bears, from 11 and 18 yards, and finished with a game-high 85 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore Danzel Williams of Arlington, Texas, an transfer from Oklahoma, had two short touchdowns of his own among his nine carries for 50 yards.
A pair of receivers got in on the scoring act when Dezmin Lewis blocked an UIW punt early in the third quarter and fellow receiver Desmond Smith fell on it in the end zone for another score, giving UCA a 37-0 cushion.
The Bears, co-champions of the SLC last season, jumped on one of the conference's newcomers early Saturday. Veasley staked UCA to a 13-0 lead at the 7:21 mark of the first quarter. Eddie Camara's 42-yard field goal made it 16-0 at the end of the first quarter. The halftime margin reached 30 points as Wilson caught a 29-yard TD pass from Smothers and Williams scored from the 1.
After Smith's blocked punt recovery, Williams made it 44-0 with a 3-yard run and transfer quarterback Taylor Reed of El Dorado threw his first career touchdown pass, a 36-yarder to Wilson, at the 6:02 mark of the fourth quarter for a 51-0 margin.
The Cardinals finally got on the board on quarterback Trent Brittain's 38-yard scoring run with 4:00 remaining in the game. But Wilson answered that with his 93-yard return to set the final.
UCA finished with 523 yards of total offense and held UIW to just 231, with only 87 rushing. The Bears spread the wealth defensively, with no player finishing with more than five tackles. Sophomore All-SLC defensive end Jonathan Woodard had four tackles, a sack for 7 yards and a forced fumble. Junior free safety Marvin Mitchell had five solo tackles and a forced fumble.
The Bears travel to Boulder, Colo., next Saturday to face FBS Colorado at 7 p.m.
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