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FCS Championship – Second Round

Illinois State (9-4) at Central Arkansas (9-3)

Credit: ISU News

The Redbirds defense, lead by S Luther Kirk, is one of the best in the Missouri Valley and does not seem like much of a weak spot. Very few QBs have tested Kirk and the secondary, which will be the goal for them against the Bears to ground the air attack. If they can manage this, the Bears could be in trouble Saturday at home.

The UCA Bears have had a weird, yet wild ride of a season, but ending them up as the eighth seed in the playoffs. May not be there best, but the first goal is to get in, then win.

Credit: KATV

The Bears season has been full of ups and downs throughout. A great start of the year with a win against bowl-eligible Western Kentucky to start the season, then an impressive with over eventual FCS Playoff participant Austin Peay, but the young Bears after an impressive start found themselves in a little bit of a slump. A narrow victory over Abilene Christian and an awful shutout loss to Southeasters Louisiana at home.

Since then the Bears offense has been firing on all cylinders and very untouchable. With 6’8, 320 OL Hunter Watts certainly going to be on NFL draft boards this April, he is the leader of what the Bears want to do on offense. They can spread the ball around behind QB Breylin Smith, or hand off the RB Carlos Blackmon, who had 7 rushing TDs on the season. The biggest question coming into this Second-Round matchup is did the bye week affect the Bears on offense and defense? Smith has been able to spread the ball around all year with 31 TDs, but has also thrown 13 INT, which can explain the ups and downs of the Bears year do far.

Credit: NSU Athletics

This game is going to draw a lot of attention coming into Conway, Arkansas Saturday afternoon. Illinois State, who by all terms seems favored in the matchup, could be Central Arkansas’ worst nightmare of the season and could possibly end their season. It will truly be a battle of Robinson vs Blackmon in the running game. Who will be able to keep the ball moving on the ground to help the offenses keep the ball moving and the defense working. Smith and Blackmon band together to keep the Bears on the field converting throughout the game keeping the Redbirds off balance while the Bears defense focuses on the running game of Robinson forcing the young QB to put the ball in the air.

Illinois State 20 Central Arkansas 35
Justin Garrison
Football Sports Writer for Natural State Sports Co-Host of Thursday night live show "The Sports Junkies" along side Steve Hinson