CONWAY, Ark.- The University of Central Arkansas Bears is finally returning home to “The Stripes” at First Security Field at Estes Stadium when they host Missouri Western at 3 p.m. on Saturday. This return is the first time since September 26, and just the second time all season.
This could be a tough game for the bears, because for the fourth time in eight games, they are facing off against a team playing their first game of the season.
“For the fourth time this year, we’re playing a team in their first game, and that’s unheard of,’ said UCA head coach Nathan Brown. “That’s difficult, that’s not something that is normal. When you’re playing a team, and it being their first game, and they’ve had nothing but prep time for you, it makes for a difficult game plan.”
Austin Peay, with a brand new coaching staff, UAB and North Dakota State were all competing for the first time this season when they took on the Bears, leaving the UCA coaching staff with a lot of question marks heading into the games. Another, Missouri State, had three weeks to prepare between consecutive games against the Bears.
“One, we haven’t seen their personnel, we have not seen what maybe they have changed from last season to this season. All of our game film (on MWSU) is 2019, whereas they have seven game tapes of 2020 on us. That’s difficult. We dealt with that obviously with North Dakota State, we dealt with that with UAB and we dealt with that with Austin Peay.
Missouri Western is a Top 25 NCAA Division II football team, one that won nine games last year, with the ninth being a 35-14 victory over Henderson State in the Agent Barry Live United Bowl. The Griffons have won consecutive Live United Bowls, beating Southern Arkansas in 2018.
Someone on the opposite side of the field is also having a homecoming. The Griffons’ head coach is Matt Williamson, a former assistant coach (2007-09) and defensive coordinator (2010-13) at UCA.
“I know Coach Williamson very well, very good friends with him,’ said Brown. “He coached here and then I coached against him as well in the Southland Conference (at Stephen F. Austin). Very respectable coach, he’s going to have his players ready to go with a lot of enthusiasm. That’s his alma mater, so he’s got a lot of pride in that program. And you can tell by the way they play.”
The Bears are 1-0 at home this season, beating Missouri State 27-20 five weeks ago. After an open date next Saturday, the Bears will host their third and final home game, a rematch with Eastern Kentucky, on Nov. 14. EKU scored with six seconds left to beat the Bears 31-28 in a heartbreaker last weekend in Richmond, Ky.
To claim victory this weekend, Brown is expecting a battle.
The game will be carried live on The Bear 91.3 and The Point 94.1 with Justin Acri, Chris Kane and RJ Hawk, and on ESPN3 with Steve Sullivan, Wess Moore and RJ Hawk.