JONESBORO — Arkansas State handled Central Arkansas rather easily this time.
Four years after a stunning loss to the Bears, the Red Wolves shook off a slow start for a 50-27 victory over UCA on a soggy Saturday at Centennial Bank Stadium.
ASU (2-2) started to assert itself with 21 points in the final six minutes of the first half. The Red Wolves tacked on another 20 points in the third quarter to build a 30-point lead over their guests from Conway.
Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher combined to pass for 392 yards and six touchdowns against a UCA defense that was missing three starters, including standout cornerback Robert Rochell. The Bears (2-3) were unable to contain Jonathan Adams Jr. and Dahu Green as ASU’s tall senior wideouts combined for 12 receptions, 195 yards and four touchdowns.
Bonner, who drew the start, completed 11-of-19 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Playing every other series, Hatcher was 10-of-19 for 153 yards and three touchdowns.
Adams finished with six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns while Green added six receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns. ASU rolled up 573 total yards.
UCA finished with 411 yards. Breylin Smith was 24-of-49 for 302 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted twice.
A safety was all ASU could muster in the first 24 minutes as UCA took a 6-2 lead on a couple of field goals. The Red Wolves finally moved in front on a 13-play, 75-yard drive engineered by Hatcher, who found Adams for a 4-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal with 5:22 left in the first half.
With UCA mounting a drive, cornerback Samy Johnson picked off Smith’s short pass and raced 60 yards to the end zone, increasing ASU’s lead to 16-6 with 3:14 left in the half.
The Bears capitalized when ASU lost a fumble, cutting the Red Wolves’ lead to 16-13 on Smith’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Lujuan Winningham.
ASU responded with another drive led by Hatcher. UCA was whistled for pass interference on fourth down and Brandon Bowling dove into the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown reception with 29 seconds left in the half, giving the Red Wolves a 23-13 halftime lead.
Bonner drove the Red Wolves 75 yards in five plays with the second-half kickoff, finding Green on a 3-yard touchdown pass. Hatcher connected with Adams on a 22-yard touchdown pass at the 8:19 mark and Bonner came back to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Green with 29 seconds left in the quarter, giving ASU a 43-13 lead.
UCA lost a fumble deep in ASU territory in the third quarter and was also stopped on a goal-line stand. The Bears pulled within 43-27 on two quick touchdown passes to Winningham in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, but Antonio Fletcher’s interception ended their next drive.
Bonner found freshman Corey Rucker on the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown pass with 5:14 remaining, setting the final score.
ASU returns to Sun Belt Conference play Thursday against Georgia State. Kickoff at Centennial Bank Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.