CONWAY -- When University of Central Arkansas Coach Nathan Brown began his assessment of this week's opponent, he picked a starting point common to the Bears this season, particularly in their last three games.
Lamar's offense starts with Jordan Hoy, a mobile quarterback who leads his team in multiple statistical categories, including passing and rushing yards, touchdowns scored, and touchdown passes thrown. Hoy, a senior, transferred from Old Dominion to lead Lamar to the NCAA FCS playoffs last season with a run of six consecutive Southland Conference victories.
"He's special," Brown said. "He's a special quarterback."
Lamar will host UCA at Provost Humphrey Stadium in Beaumont, Texas, at 3 p.m. today.
Hoy has passed for 1,611 yards and 8 touchdowns in eight starts this season and has rushed for 400 yards and 8 touchdowns, tied for third-most in the Southland.
UCA was fourth on Lamar's six-game run to the 2018 playoffs, when Hoy, last season's Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year, led his team to a 38-24 victory at Conway's Estes Stadium.
Hoy passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns against UCA. He also ran for 49 yards and another touchdown.
"We're going to have to be really good on defense," Brown said. "We're going to have to play smart football and be sharp on our assignments or they'll make some big plays on us."
UCA has faced similar dual-threat quarterbacks in three previous games, a 24-16 victory at Austin Peay on Sept. 7, a 34-14 loss at Nicholls State on Oct. 5, and a 40-31 victory over McNeese State at Estes Stadium in Conway on Oct. 12.
Injuries an issue
UCA's move into first place in the Southland Conference came with a high price.
Two players were lost for the season in the Bears' 29-25 victory over Sam Houston State at Estes Stadium last Saturday. Another will miss at least several games, UCA Coach Nathan Brown said.
A broken left arm ended sophomore receiver Lujuan Winningham's season. Junior tight end Josh Nix is out until 2020 with a torn ACL in his left knee, and junior left guard Will Burgess' return date is unknown after he sprained his left MCL against the Bearkats.
"I think we can get him back, but we won't have him back for the next couple of weeks," Brown said.
Winningham left the game in the second quarter as UCA's leading receiver with 50 catches for 814 yards and 8 touchdowns. At that point, UCA trailed 7-0, but eventually returned from second-half deficits of 16-0 and 22-7, in part, to career-high outputs from freshman receiver Tyler Hudson and junior receiver Joe Hampton.
Hudson caught 10 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, while Hampton had 5 receptions for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns.
"To have Joe Hampton step up, to have Tyler Hudson step up, and numerous other guys, that has to give us confidence even though we're not going to see Lujuan for the rest of the year," Brown said. "We need Lujuan, but we'll have to find our way without him."
"We all knew we were going to have to step up our game," Hampton said.
Brown said depth on the offensive line might be the most significant loss for UCA.
"We were already thin there," he said.
Senior running back Carlos Blackman's rushing yards are down from previous seasons, but UCA Coach Nathan Brown said Blackman's value is as high as ever.
Through eight games this season, Blackman has rushed for 458 yards. In 11 games last season, Blackman ran for 786 yards. He also rushed for 770 yards as a sophomore in 2017.
Despite not being on pace to reach those rushing numbers this year, Blackman is stepping up catching the football.
Blackman began this season with three-year career totals of 28 catches for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2019 alone, Blackman has caught 39 passes for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns.
"Carlos is still a star on this team," Brown said. "His rushing stats aren't as gaudy as he might want them to be, but we are who we are as an offense at this point, and we're trying to find different ways to get our best players the ball in their hands, and with Carlos, we're throwing him some passes. I've said all along that he has wide-receiver skills. Carlos has great hands, and he is as valuable a player on our offense as anybody."
Sports on 11/02/2019
Print Headline: Run-pass QB gains attention