FCS Playoff Scouting Report: Montana Grizzlies vs. Central Arkansas Bears

Publisher’s note: Brint Wahlberg is a dyed-in-the-wool Griz Fan. This is an excerpt from his post this week on eGriz.com. He (and we) assume you’ve got the 4-1-1 on our Griz team/players, so this is his scouting report on the University of Central Arkansas Bears and what he thinks it’ll take for a Griz victory.  

The playoffs begin for the Griz on Saturday, Dec. 3rd at 12:05 pm with the arrival of the University of Central Arkansas Bears at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

UCA brings athleticism and speed in skill positions that the Griz have not seen a ton this season. This will be a monumental battle, mainly between UCA’s offense against the Grizzly defense. Quite frankly, I’m surprised at the chatter on egriz. It’s as if this were a D2 school coming to town. This game will be a war and the Griz need to bring their A game. Keep in mind that last year, two of the four play-in winners beat the seeded team they faced the next week (NDSU and GSU).

UCA record: 9-3

38-10 win vs Henderson State: UCA started slow, only up 14-0 at the half but widened the lead quickly in the 3rd. UCA passed for 321 in the game and enjoyed a pretty good kickoff to their season. HSU was held to just 270 total yards in the whole game.

42-48 loss vs Louisiana Tech: WAC champion LATech had to muster all they could to win this game. LATech finished 8-4 on the season and lost the next week to undefeated Houston by just one point. UCA found themselves down 35-20 as the 3rd quarter was winding down, they then went on a tear, scoring 22 unanswered points (three TDs, one with a two-point conversion). The third TD was a scoop-and-score fumble recovery to take a 42-35 lead with 2:30 left in the game. LATech answered and scored a TD of their own with 58 seconds left in the game set up largely by a 50 yard pass reception. In overtime UCA’s feildgoal attempt was blocked, while LATech took just 3 running plays to score a TD and win the game. UCA passed for 372 and finished with 445 total yards, meanwhile LATech ran for 221 and passed for 321.

10-31 loss to Sam Houston St: #1 seed SHSU ran all over UCA piling up 317 rush yards on the Bears and forcing UCA to just 5 of 14 on third down and under 250 yards passing. SHSU controlled the clock (36:00) and kept UCA off the field and out of the endzone.

24-53 loss to Arkansas St: 9-2 ASU and Sun Belt champs was up by just 9 points at the half (19-10) but opened it up quickly in the third quarter to put the game away. ASU ran for 375 yards against the UCA defense and passed for another 271.

38-28 win vs Stephen F. Austin: It was 35-6 with 10:00 left in the fourth before SFA began a furious attempt at a comeback that fell short. UCA hit SFA with a more balanced attack, 250 passing, 170 rushing while SFA just aired it out and had 390 passing yards. SFA went -2 in the game and missed a fieldgoal, probably large factors to their loss (that and a horrendously slow start).

37-31 win vs Nicholls: This one was a battle. Nicholls jumped out 14-3 and then would answer score for score with UCA but sometimes answered TDs with fieldgoals. Down by seven, UCA tossed a close to the goal line pass that was fumbled into the endzone but a UCA player hopped on the ball and it was a UCA TD that tied the game at 24. Late in the third, Nicholls answered with a 50 yard TD pass, but UCA responded with 20 yard TD reception just as the third quarter expired to tie it back up at 31. UCA then forced Nicholls to a three-and-out and scored another TD on their next possession, however the PAT was blocked. Nicholls couldn’t get going though in the fourth, even after picking off a pass they just couldn’t keep up the momentum.

21-18 win vs McNeese St: UCA was up 21-7 early in the second quarter. McNeese added a fieldgoal in the third, and then a TD with 4:00 left in the fourth (and two-point conversion). McNeese had opportunities for more points, but lost a fumble deep in UCA territory. After stopping UCA and getting the ball back with an attempt to win the game,they tossed a pick. It was a sloppy and crappy game. McNeese had five turnovers (two ints, three fumbles). McNeese actually lost three fumbles but had a total of seven fumbles!

38-24 win vs Lamar: Lamar went up 14-0, UCA came back and got it to 17-17 at the half. From there UCA went up 24-17, then Lamar tied it, but UCA scored 14 unanswered after that and won the game. The TD that sealed the deal for UCA was a pick-6 TD with 2:00 left in the game. It was another game without a lot of total yards (355 for UCA, 384 for Lamar). Each team tossed a pick and Lamar also lost a fumble.

55-29 win vs SE Louisiana: 19 of SLU’s 29 points were scored late in the fourth quarter, it was tight early but not much of a challenge for UCA. The Bears ran for 280 and passed for 304, UCA had three turnovers but SLU had nine. That’s right, nine turnovers: Five lost fumbles, four picks.

45-20 win vs Northwestern State: NWSt was up 20-14 at the half, but UCA came to life in the second half and scored the last 31 points of the game for the win. 14 of those final 31 points were scored by the UCA defense who had a pick-6 and a fumble recovery for a TD.

23-22 win vs Texas St: A loss to FCS independent, and soon-to-be move-up, Texas St. would have probably kept UCA at home for the playoffs. Instead, in a hard-fought game, they kicked a fieldgoal with just 1:00 left to take the lead. UCA picked off Texas St. right after that fieldgoal to ensure that they’d win the game. UCA should’ve won by a much larger margin, they passed for almost 460 yards but tossed three interceptions and lost two fumbles, while TXST had just one turnover. Give some credit to UCA for going -4 on the day and still winning.

34-14 win vs Tenn Tech: UCA did their thing that they’ve been doing most of the season, a close first half, which they opened up in the second half. TTU’s running game was totally stuffed, while UCA passed for nearly 320 yards and ran for 120. Three of UCA’s TDs were over 30 yards.

Players to Watch:

#14 Nathan Dick, QB: The two-time, first-team all-conference QB, Dick leads this offense that likes to air it out. He completes just over 64% of his passes, averages 275 yards per game passing and has 30 TDs to just eight interceptions. He’s not much of a rusher, but has over 100 yards and two TDs running, so he is a threat to tuck it and run.

#5 Jackie Hinton, RB: Hinton missed a few games this year, but is the primary running back in this offense. He’s got 666 yards and four TDs this year on the ground, additionally he’s got 160 receiving yards. He’s 5′ 10″, 203 pounds. Hinton was recognized second team all-conference.

#2 Jessie Gandy, WR: A small WR at 5′ 11″, 167 lbs., Gandy is the leading WR of their corps, he’s got 731 receiving yards and eight TDs this year. He’s also the main punt returner and one of the two kick returners.

#84 Dominique Croom ,WR: This is the WR that allegedly was sending messages to Tru, Murray, and Roots on Twitter, talking serious trash to both, as well as the Griz fans who responded to him. Another twitter account with his name on it claimed it’s a fake account, however since Croom has locked his personal account and this fake account has not been locked but has stopped posting. Odd all around, I still think that was a fake account. Croom has 518 yards and seven TDs this season. He’s a taller guy at 6′ 1″.

#3 Isaiah Jackson, WR: Jackson is the #3 WR in this group, he’s got 421 yards and one TD receiving. He’s also the main KR guy, and a dangerous one at that. He averages 23 yards per return and has one TD.

#23 Anthony Blackmon, RB: Another 203-pound running back, Blackmon has 299 yards and one TD this year. He’s got 13 receptions this season but just 35 yards total, looks like more of a check-down kind of guy.

#85 Dezmin Lewis, WR: The taller WR of the group at 6′ 4″, he’s got 350 yards and two TDs this year.

#21 Terrance Bobo, RB: Bobo seems to have a strong presence around the goal line, he’s got four rushing TDs and one receiving TD. 265 rushing yards and 273 receiving yards.

#12 Seth Allen, a safety last year listed as a linebacker now. At 198 pounds he leads the team with 100 tackles, 14.5 TFL, four sacks, two INTs, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles.

#28 Jestin Love, listed as safety, he’s a real ball-hawk with five picks so far, and I believe holds the team record with pick-6 TDs. He’s also got 64 tackles on the team and has two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

#1 Frank Newsome, A 6′ 2″, 232-pound linebacker, he’s got 70 tackles this year 10.5 TFL, one INT, and two fumble recoveries.

#17 Jermayne Lett, a 6′ 2″, 250-pound DE, he leads the team sacks with five, he’s also got 40 tackles this year and a whopping 16.5 TFL.

#31 Jessie Simms, a 6′ 0″, 230-pound LB, Simms is third in tackles with 66, one INT, and one fumble recovery.


General Stats:

– The UCA offense averages 33.8 ppg, they rush for 127 yards per game, and pass for 282 yards per game. Compare that to UM’s defense, which allows 20.4 ppg, and gives up 123 rush yards per game and 198 pass yards per game.

– The UCA defense averages giving up 27.7 ppg, they allow 148 rush yards per game and 260 pass yards per game. Compare that to the Griz offense that runs for on average 214 per game and passes for 208 per game.

– UCA is +13 on the season in turnovers, they’ve grabbed 16 fumbles (eight of which came from just two games). Compare to the Griz who are +8 this year.

– UCA’s defense really locks down in the second and third quarters. They’ve allowed almost 100 points this season in the first quarter and just over 100 in the fourth, however in the second they’ve only allowed 63 points, and 62 points in the third.

– UCA’s offense takes advantage of when their D steps up, their two quarters where they’ve scored the most points are the second (109 points) and the third (139 points).

– UCA’s O-line protects their QB pretty well, only 14 sacks allowed this season.

– UCA scores TDs in the RZ 58% of the time, the Griz D allows TDs 47% of the time. Meanwhile UCA’s defense allows TDs 52% of the time while the Griz offense scores TDs 60% of the time.

– UCA’s fieldgoal kicker gets a little shaky outside of the 30. He’s 3-5 from 30-39, and 2-4 from 40-49 with no attempts beyond the 50. His longest made is 43 yards. He’s also had two extra points blocked.

Keys for a Griz win:

– Take advantage of UCA’s up/down defense. UCA has shown weakness against the pass and the rush, however this weekend they stuffed TTU. The Grizzly offense needs to get their game going and grind it out just like they did against MSU.

– Keep UCA under wraps especially in the third quarter. UCA has shown that in the third is where they either catch up and take the lead or stretch the game too far out of reach. The Griz need to make sure that, regardless the score at halftime, they don’t allow UCA to go off in the third.

– Get TDs instead of fieldgoals. UCA can score quickly and often. TDs helps keep them at bay.

– Prevent the big play. In recapping a lot of their games you’d see that UCA his tons of long-play TDs, mostly though the air. Our pass defense cannot get beat deep if they want to win this game.

– Win the turnover battle. Both of these teams are very opportunistic, UCA has scored five or six TDs on defense this year alone. Turnovers could kill the Griz in this one.

– Set up some big punt returns, UCA allows on average seven yards per return. That’s a pretty good buffer, get after it and get some big returns for Jabin.

– Control the clock. In UCA’s losses they were killed with TOP.


So far, Griz fans have been assuming a win. Looking deeply at UCA, though, this game will be a real struggle. I see it coming down to our defense containing their passing game. If that can be done the Griz should win in a lower scoring game. If this game turns into a shootout, UCA holds the definite edge. Dick is probably the best QB the Griz have faced, comparable to EWU’s QB. This week in Conway, AR it’s supposed to be sunny and mid-50’s. Come game day, Missoula is currently projected to be a balmy 30 degrees and sunny, so weather will only play a small factor. Let’s pack the house Griz fans, this game is going to be a battle!

Go Griz!


Brint Wahlberg is a Missoula native, a life-long Griz, and a realtor with Windermere Realty. He’s a regular contributor on all things Griz at egriz.com.