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University of Central Arkansas quarterback Breylin Smith thought it was odd when he was informed early Tuesday afternoon that there would be a team meeting before practice.

So did his teammates.

"Being the quarterback, everybody was asking me, 'Hey, you know what this was about,' " Smith said. "I said I have no clue."

Then, Coach Nathan Brown told the Bears that UCA's game with Arkansas State University was postponed from this weekend until Oct. 10 because of player unavailability on ASU's roster.

"I couldn't really believe it," Smith said. "But you know, the time we're playing in right now, just part of it."

UCA-ASU was one of six games involving FCS and FBS teams that were either canceled or postponed this week, all offshoots of the coronavirus pandemic.

Brown said he heard rumblings Tuesday morning and knew the postponement was a possibility. The most important step for him was letting his team know before the news broke on social media.

"We were able to tell our players in person and make sure they understood that it was nothing we did wrong on our end, and we respect Arkansas State's decision to postpone the game," Brown said. "They understand that stuff like this is a possibility. And things may get crazier before they get normal. We're used to that. I think our guys handled it, you know, very well."

UCA (1-1) opened the college football season with a 24-17 victory against Austin Peay in Montgomery, Ala., a game seen on ESPN. The Bears then became the first team to play two games when they traveled to Birmingham, Ala., to play Alabama-Birmingham five days later, a 45-35 loss.

Two games in five days has turned into two games in 21 days, and the 16-day layoff without a game will reach 23 days before the Bears are scheduled to play Missouri State on Saturday at Estes Stadium in Conway.

Brown said the Bears have maintained a positive attitude in this who-knows-what's-going-to-happen-next atmosphere.

"Obviously, Tuesday was going to be a big Arkansas State prep day," Brown said. "But we turned it into a UCA Bear prep day. We flipped the script this week. Focused on ourselves."

Brown said the Bears likely would have held a mock game Sept. 12 if they had known there was going to be three consecutive Saturdays without a game. Especially with the return of starting left tackle Jaylen Hendricks (ankle) and starting cornerback Andre Lamont, who didn't play against UAB.

"We've got to stay sharp, and we've done a good job of doing that," Brown said.

Smith, a fifth-year junior from Conway, redshirted as a freshman in 2016 and was lost for the 2018 season with an ankle injury four games in.

He said it's not difficult to stay focused and motivated, even when there is no Southland Conference title on the line.

Any FCS playoffs won't be held until April 2021, the NCAA announced last week, but Smith (51-95 passing, 476 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs) said UCA is fortunate to have an administration that is supporting the team.

"I've got friends across the country not getting to play," Smith said. "It's just a great opportunity to get to play.

"That's enough for me, to want to go out there and play ... going back to spring ball getting cut short. That's all we wanted to do. That's been the motto for a lot of people across the country. Go on social media and you see them all saying they just want to play."

Brown said there is plenty for the Bears to work on, and plenty of incentive with a Bobby Petrino-coached team next on the schedule.

Improving conditioning and tackling, and doing a better job of protecting the ball are areas of emphasis.

"We know if we don't do the little things, the big things won't happen," Brown said. "It's been a long break, and we still have time on this break. We've got another weekend to rest and recover."

The disappointment of not getting to play ASU as scheduled remains, especially because the Red Wolves were coming off a victory over Power 5 foe Kansas State.

"Them getting a huge emotional win the week before they played us did not bother me," Brown said. "Look, I've been there before. I've been a part of big wins at UCA, and you do tend to be distracted the week after, whether it's interviews or just human nature.

"I do think it was a good week to compete against them. The competitive side of you wanted to play that game."


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