UCA football team headed to Hawaii

A return trip to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands highlights the University of Central Arkansas’ 2019 football schedule.

The Bears will play the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Aloha Stadium. UCA will be making its second trip to Hawaii after playing the Rainbow Warriors in 2009. Hawaii scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:22 remaining in that game to avoid the upset and win 25-20.

“Our last non-conference game, against Hawaii, will be an experience of a lifetime for a lot of our players,” said second-year Head Coach Nathan Brown.

“Getting the opportunity to take our team out to Hawaii and compete with historically one of the best group of five FBS programs is an honor. They return one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and a very prolific offense run by their head man Coach (Nick) Rolovich.

“I know from our experience there in 2009 that it will be one of the toughest venues to play at in the country. We are excited about the challenge and will be going out there to win the football game.”

The Bears have opened up spring practice and the annual Purple-Gray Game is set for Saturday, April 6, on “The Stripes” at First Security Field at Estes Stadium.

Prior to the Hawaii contest, UCA will play two other non-conference games, at Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 and at Austin Peay on Sept. 7, along with opening Southland Conference play at home against Abilene Christian on Sept. 14. The SLC portion of the Bears’ schedule features five homes games, including games against McNeese State (Oct. 12), Sam Houston State (Oct. 26), Southeastern Louisiana (Nov. 9) and Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 16).

“I am very excited and ready to attack the challenging 2019 schedule,” said Brown. “Based on my experiences this could be one of the more challenging Division I schedules we have ever played. We have to weather the early stretch of the year of only playing one home game in our first five games.

“Once again Dr. (Brad) Teague has done a great job scheduling regional FBS and FCS non-conference games for us. This is important to us for easier travel and also the ability to get as many fans and supporters to the games as possible. I am excited about the challenge of this schedule and I know my team is also. We look forward to playing great games against some of the best Division I opponents the country can offer.”

Ironically, UCA also played Western Kentucky in the next game following Hawaii in 2009, and recorded its first win over an FBS program, beating the Hilltoppers 28-7 in Bowling Green, Ky.

“Western Kentucky will be a very challenging opening game,” said Brown. “They are two years removed from two straight 10-win seasons and Conference USA championships. They fell on somewhat hard times last year but looking at their personnel and guys returning, they will be very good. One challenge to this game will be playing a whole new staff. It is never easy to open with a team that has a new coaching staff.

“We will have to do a good job leading up to the game, doing our research on where the head coach and coordinators have been and what they did.”
Austin Peay hired Mark Hudspeth, a former UCA graduate assistant and assistant coach, as its head coach in December. He was previously the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.

“Once again, we will be playing a great FCS non-conference opponent in Austin Peay,” Brown said.  “This program has been on the rise over the last three years and has produced one of the more talented teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. A lot like the Western Kentucky game, there will be a challenge with a whole new staff being on board there.

“We are very familiar with Coach Hudspeth in UCA country and know what he is capable of as a head coach. I know he will have a lot of excitement and juice behind this program for years to come. We will have to play well to go over there and beat them.”

The conference slate, which begins with the ACU games, feature road trips to Nicholls State (Oct. 5), Northwestern State (Oct. 19), Lamar (Nov. 2) and Incarnate Word (Nov. 22).

“We are excited about a very challenging Southland Conference schedule,” said Brown. “We get to host some big time programs in Sam Houston State, McNeese, Southeastern Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian. That being said, our road schedule will pose some trouble as well. We dropped Houston Baptist from our schedule and picked up a trip to Thibodaux, La., to play Nicholls. They have been to the playoffs the last two years and return one of the best FCS quarterbacks in the country in Chase Fourcade for his senior season.

“We also get to go on the road to Lamar and Incarnate Word who were both playoff teams from 2018. We will have to bring our ‘A’ game on the road to have a chance to make a championship run this year.”