CONWAY -- Every level of football is heavily populated by coaches who say they are indifferent to the win-loss records of their teams' opponents, particularly if those records are less than impressive.
University of Central Arkansas Coach Nathan Brown is among them, but he has made credible arguments for the quality of each opponent the Bears (7-3, 5-2 Southland Conference) have on their 2019 schedule, including two-win Stephen F. Austin (2-8, 2-5).
UCA is scheduled to host Stephen F. Austin at 3 p.m. today at Estes Stadium.
The Lumberjacks doubled their win total last Saturday with a 31-24 victory over Incarnate Word. The week before, they lost at Southeastern Louisiana (47-30) before the Lions responded with a 34-0 victory at UCA.
"What you've seen them do is get better as the season goes on," Brown said. "Sure, they only have two wins, but they've beaten good teams. They have the ability to win games. They've made some games tough against some really good teams, so I think it's going to be a tough game."
Brown said he attributes Stephen F. Austin's recent improvement to first-year head Coach Colby Carthel, who led NCAA Division II Texas A&M-Commerce to an overall record of 59-18 from 2013-18 and to the Division II national championship in 2017.
"I know Coach Carthel is going to do a great job there," Brown said. "He's going to be one of the best recruiters at this level of football. He's had great success at the Division II level. I just have a lot of respect for who he is and what he does."
Freshman quarterback Cam Arnold made his first start in Stephen F. Austin's victory over Incarnate Word in Huntsville, Texas. He passed for 201 yards and 1 touchdown on a fourth-quarter 70-yard pass to freshman Xavier Gipson that gave the Lumberjacks a 28-21 lead.
Gipson has 41 catches to top a total of five Stephen F. Austin receivers with 22 or more catches this season.
"[Arnold] has the ability to make all the throws," Brown said. "He can extend plays and he's a guy they can run their offense through."
LB among standouts
UCA Coach Nathan Brown said freshman inside linebacker Darrin Davenport is one of the most significant contributors among the Bears' first-year players.
Davenport, who played last season for Fort Smith Southside, was not offered a scholarship until a week before preseason practice began in early August, though Brown said he had drawn UCA's interest last fall.
Brown said it became clear shortly after Davenport arrived on campus that he would make an impact, which he has. He has 40 tackles through 10 games, sixth-most on the team, and five tackles for lost yardage, tied for the third most.
Brown said Davenport has rotated in with sophomore starter Malik Wilson early and often enough to render their roles nearly indistinguishable.
"We knew he was a great player, but it only took us the first few days to say, 'Wow, we got something here,' " Brown said. "That kid, a year from now, he gets another year in the weight room, he's going to be one of the best linebackers at this level."
Other first-year players Brown said are excelling thus far include freshman safety Cameron Godfrey and two freshman offensive linemen, tackle Parker Ray and guard Josh George.
"You don't expect freshmen offensive linemen to come in and do what they're doing," Brown said.
Brown said Davenport has a trait that is instinctual and beyond a coach's influence.
"He just has a nose for the football," Brown said. "It's hard to coach. It's really impossible to coach. His having that ability is what separates him."
Brown OK as a Bear
On Monday, the day after University of Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek announced Chad Morris' dismissal as head coach for the Razorbacks, at least one caller to a talk show on KABZ-FM, 103.7, in Little Rock mentioned UCA Coach Nathan Brown as an acceptable replacement.
Arkansas, under the guidance of Morris, fell to a record of 2-8 and 0-6 in the SEC after its 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky in Fayetteville last Saturday. UCA began this season, Brown's second as its head coach, with a 35-28 victory at Western Kentucky.
Brown laughed as he stated his appreciation for the caller.
"It's a compliment, it is, and I'll take any compliment I can get, especially after a 34-0 loss," Brown said of the Bears' loss last Saturday to Southeastern Louisiana.
"I think you hear people like that, and they're people who have seen the success of UCA more than me. That's what they see. When you're the head coach at UCA, you're usually winning football games. That's a culture that's developed here, and I'm just trying to sustain it."
Sports on 11/16/2019
Print Headline: UCA, 7-3, leery of opponent