In the wake of one of his team’s best performances of the season, University of Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque says there are some choppy waters ahead.
The Bears (5-2, 2-1), which totally dominated Nicholls State in a 42-13 victory Saturday, now have three of their remaining Southland Conference games on the road beginning this week at Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions are also 2-1 in the league after a 36-35 loss to McNeese State on the road Saturday.
"But you’ve got to win a game or two on the road to win a championship," Conque said Monday at the weekly Bearbackers luncheon.
"Our players were on point, focused and came out Saturday with the intensity you are looking for every week," Conque said about the homecoming victory.
The Bears rushed for 272 yards and passed for 273. They had 13 plays of more than 16 yards.
"You can’t ask for more balance than that," Conque said. "Nicholls plays at times a high-risk, high-reward defense but all that production started with the offensive line and tight ends. They dominated the football game from an assignment and physical standpoint."
Running back Brent Grimes, who won his second L.B. Jackman Award as the outstanding player in the homecoming game, played 21 snaps and rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 14.5 yards per carry. The Bears scored on six of their first seven possessions.
"That’s a pretty efficient night. When we had our 1’s in there, we were pretty sound," Conque said. "Grimes, Leonard Ceaser, Robbie Park, Jackie Hinton, James Lovett and Dominique Croom are playing at a high level and when you get that and the offensive line play going, you have a chance to put up those kind of offensive numbers."
He said Nicholls State had an intimidating offensive line as far as size and they way they took wide split.
"But our defense put on a dominating performance,; our guys got after it," Conque said. "We played with leverage, speed and a sense of urgency. They are an option team that in which everything for the most part is going straight ahead. We had eight tackles for loss. When you tackle an option team behind the line of scrimmage that much, it shows you are getting penetration and wrapping up and making plays."
A major area of disappointment, Conque said, was the continuation of a series of what he has termed "selfish" penalties this year. The latest occurred when Taylor Scott was called for a running-into-the-kicker penalty that extended what ultimately became a touchdown drive for the Colonels.
"This has happened a couple of times to different players and it has cost us points," Conque said. "At what point do we get the picture here that we’ve got to get off the field, let the offense have the ball and go sit down and rest? That’s something we’ve got to get fix. The young man feels bad about it.
"Selfishness is something we as coaches have to deal with today at a higher level than when I played or even before my time. The team aspect is still there and strong and we do a good job with that ... But the thing about it the young man was told ‘don’t do this’ on the sideline and he did that. That’s what bothers you. There’s not a finer young man in our program, but it’s something we’ve got to address and get cleaned up."
Conque said the Bears’ kicking game was solid and much improved although he is concerned that Eddie Carmona’s kickoffs are deteriorating somewhat in distance.
He said he was concerned when he walked onto the field during pregame warm-ups and saw Carmona trying a few field goal attempts at 52 and 57 yards.
"He may be kicking his leg out before the game," Conque said. "I told him I’m not going to call very many 57-yard field goal attempts. I told him I know he is capable of doing that, but let’s not do it 30 minutes before the game.
"And I felt our kickoff coverage was not as physical as we want it to be. These are smaller concerns in the kicking game than the week before but still concerns."
COOK MOVES UP: Conque announced that redshirt freshman Trae Cook is now the backup quarterback to senior Robbie Park, moving ahead of University of Arkansas transfer Nathan Dick on the depth chart.
"That is based on performance on the field, which is the only way I know to do it," Conque said.
BEHIND THE LINE: Out of 33 players the Bears have played on defense this season, 27 have already made tackles for loss.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: For the offense award, the UCA coaches did a blanket citation — to the Bears’ offensive line and tight ends. Linebacker Jacob Bane earned the defensive honor. Punter Jonathan Beard earned the citation for the special teams. Linebacker Tok Opeloye got the "Big Stick" citation. Wynrick Smothers was the scout team player of the week on offense and Jestin Love got the scout team honor on defense.
NEXT WEEK: There will be a substitute speaker for Conque at next week’s luncheon as he will again make an appearance at the Little Rock Touchdown Club.