University of Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque says Southeastern Louisiana looks the same as every Lion football team has since the Bears began playing them in 2007.
That means the team that defeated the Bears Saturday night, 58-31, had speed, size, athleticism and great athletes all over the field.
It’s a big difference as the Lions are in the driver’s seat in the Southland Conference race at 5-0.
"The quarterback," said Conque referring to Oregon transfer Bryan Bennett, who rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries and passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns. "He is a very talented young man. He is probably the best dual threat quartrback we’ve played since we have been in Division I."
At Monday’s weekly Bearbacker luncheon, Conque noted the difference in mindset for the Bears, who don’t have much tangible to play for in November for the first time in four years. UCA, 5-5, 2-3 and out of the SLC title and postseason picture, play at Nicholls State on Saturday.
"This is not the atmosphere we expected at the start of the season," he said. "This will be a challenge to our coaching staff, fan base and players. Our objectives now are to finish strong in the classroom and on the field."
He said the Bears spotted Southeastern 14 points on a 90-yard kickoff return to start the game and an interception returned for a touchdown to start the second half. The Bears also lost a fumble deep in their territory that led to a touchdown and had a blocked kick on what he described as an "extraordinary play" from a defender. The Bears were also held on downs on two thrusts inside the 1 after wide receiver Jose Moore failed to get in the end zone on second down.
"They (the Lions) didn’t need any help," Conque said. "We dropped a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. We couldn’t get in on two tries inside the 1 and you have to do that in games like this. And it was a learning moment for our young wide receiver. If you catch the ball near the end zone, if you can get in, get in.
The Bears surrendered 545 yards of offense, 343 rushing and 202 passing.
"We’re struggling on defense and some of that is because we have no depth right now, although we should get a couple of guys back this week," he said. "We played a quarterback who can throw and run, and unless you have superior talent, that forces you to try some things to attempt to stop the run."
He said Bennett got many of his yards on scrambles with man coverage in the secondary offering no support.
"To stop the run, we had to play man coverage because we had to put a lot of guys in the box (near the line of scrimmage)," Conque said. "And we’re not built right now to be a man coverage team. It opens you up to some long runs beause in man coverage, there is no second level of defense."
He said the Bears are also not a good tackling team.
"But some things you just can’t fix right now," he said. "We’re not going to be a good tackling team because it’s Tuesday. You address those things in the offseason and spring and in recruiting."
He said four of the young players, redshirt freshman defensive end Bailey McIver, true freshmen defensive linemen Jordan Tolliver and Terrance Partee, and sophomore receiver Desmond Smith have elevated their games. He also praised sophomore quarterback Taylor Reed, who rushed for 70 yards and nine carries and a touchdown and completed four of five passes for 48 yards and another touchdown. He said Reed will get more playing time in alternating with junior Ryan Howard.
He said the plan was to kick deep to Xavier Robertson, one of the top kickoff return men in the nation, one time. Robertson was untouched in returning the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.
"We wanted to challenge our kids from the start," Conque said. "We were going to kick deep one time. After that, we short-kicked or squib kicked."