Eddie Camara‘s 47-yard field goal finished off an improbable comeback for UCA Saturday night in Lake Charles, La., as the Bears defeated McNeese State, 27-26, in the fifth Red Beans & Rice Bowl.
The Bears (5-2, 3-1 SLC) trailed McNeese State (4-2, 1-2 SLC) 26-17 with 3:28 remaining in the game after a 29-yard run by Cowboys junior tailback Marcus Wiltz for a touchdown.
UCA took over after the ensuing kickoff on its own 19, embarking on a 13-play, 72-yard drive to draw within two points with 1:10 remaining. Junior quarterback Wynrick Smothers came up big on the drive, including on a 4th-&-10, 12-yard scamper to keep the Bears’ hopes and drive alive. A few plays later, Smothers connected with Dezmin Lewis in the end zone on a 19-yard throw to get the Bears within one score.
Bears’ true freshman kicker Jace Denker contributed to the comeback by successfully completing an onside kick, which made its way past the McNeese State special teams unit and into the hands of Lewis at the Cowboys 38-yardline.
Three run plays for eight yards set up the go-ahead 47-yarder by Camara with 23 seconds left.
The Cowboys took over on their own 30-yardline following the Bears’ kickoff. One incompletion and a sack later, the Cowboys found themselves in a 3rd-&-18 situation with six seconds remaining. McNeese State attempted a multi-lateral play, but it ended in a 17-yard loss as time expired.
The Bears trailed the Cowboys at halftime, 12-10, and for the majority of the second half.
A 31-yard field goal from McNeese State kicker Josh Lewis gave McNeese the 12-10 lead at half as time expired in the second quarter.
The Bears opened the night with a four-and-a-half-minute drive, ending in a 36-yard reception by Jesse Grandy for a touchdown, helping the Bears to a 7-0 lead.
McNeese answered with a Lewis field goal from 41 yards out later in the first quarter.
Cowboys quarterback Cody Stroud put the Cowboys ahead, 9-7, on a one-yard run with 7:46 remaining in the first half. Lewis missed the PAT. McNeese had the last score of the half on Lewis’ 31-yarder at the end of the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, McNeese opened the fourth quarter with a 12-yard run by Wiltz for a touchdown, which capped off an 80-yard drive by the Cowboys that chewed up over six minutes of clock.
The Bears answered on the ensuing drive, as Smothers hooked up with Grandy on a 33-yard reception for a touchdown, making the score 19-17 with 8:14 remaining in the game. After an interception by Smothers with 5:59 remaining, Wiltz scored again for the Cowboys to put them ahead 26-17 before the Bears’ comeback.
UCA outgained McNeese 351-335 in total yards. The Bears gained 97 yards on the ground, led by Smothers, who finished with 33 yards on eight carries. Smothers finished the night 26 of 41 passing, for 254 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Grandy led the Bears in receiving with four catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
This was UCA’s first win in four trips to Lake Charles, La.
The Bears return home to face the Lamar Cardinals (3-4, 0-2 SLC) at 6 p.m. this Saturday.