A dreary Saturday night in Natchitoches, La., just added to the weird.
I don’t recall a college football game in which I was the only sportswriter in the press box.
But there I was Saturday night before the Northwestern State-UCA game, looking at a long front-row counter of at least 15 empty seats.
Apparently every other media member in Louisiana was in Baton Rouge for the Florida-LSU (or Tim Tebow vs. LSU game).
It was like a ghost town upstairs.
The few workers and sports information officials in the press box could hear the rants and physical gyrations directly above us, mostly from NSU offensive coordinator Todd Cooley, as he agonized over steadily downhill developments from the team he left last spring.
Cooley is one of those classy guys off the field who goes bigtime “Type A” when he puts on the coaching togs.
What we heard on the upper level of the press box was like someone was being tortured.
In a sense, it was. UCA won 34-0, spinning its first road shutout since 1988.
“Most of our players weren’t even born the last time UCA recorded a road shutout (against Harding in the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference days),” said UCA coach Clint Conque.
Except quarterback Robbie Park.
“Except Robbie Park; he was probably in pre-school,” Conque said, noting the quarterback is 25 years old and did not begin his college career before serving two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But that wasn’t the weirdest stuff.
The problem occurred when UCA did not have ... how do we day it ... tee for two. Or two tees for one.
After the Bears emerged their dressing area from pregame warmups, they discovered their kicking tee was missing.
“I’m not accusing anybody because I don’t really know what happened to it,” Conque said. “All I know was when we left the field after warmups, the tee was placed beside the kicking cage. When we came back out, it wasn’t there.”
Place-kicker Eddie Carmona had to kick off the ground out of a hold for kickoffs the first half.
“For the second straight time that we have gone to Natchitoches, we have not found our tee after pregame warmups,” Conque said. “It’s really kind of embarassing, to be honest with you. I’m not suggesting that that’s a scheme not to let us kick with our tee. But it’s happened at Natchitoches both times. I don’t know, maybe somebody down there has a tee fetish. I don’t know.”
At halftime, Conque sent a manager to go to a nearby retail store to purchase a tee. “It was the type you would buy for your junior high son,” Conque said.
“We taped it up and that’s what we kicked off of the second half,” Conque said. "We’re No. 9 in the nation, OK?. I asked (assistant) coach (Hud) Jackson, “Why in the (heck) don’t we have two tees? ... It’s kind of funny now but it’s not real funny at 7 o’clock on opening day in conference. But Eddie (Carmona) did the best he could with it and he actually kicked better without the tee.”
During a special promotion at the end of the first quarter, an SFA fan (chosen by drawing) won a prize for successful kicking an extra point.
He used a tee. A couple of UCA managers spotted that and thinking it was the missing tee, gave chase. But they had no proof the tee used by the random kicker was UCA’s tee and couldn’t get it back.
“We had to tape up the tee we bought and it actually looked like we were kicking out of a crushed coffee cup,” Conque said.
Carmona had to kick off the makeshift tee four times the second half.
All this goes down in the “all’s well that ends well” category.
Bet you the next game, the Bears will have an extra tee — and one that fits Carmona to a “T.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)