University of Central Arkansas football coach Clint Conque was pleased with the end result but disappointed by the process in the Bears’ 21-20 victory over Murray State.
The Bears, who jumped to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, were held scoreless for two quarters before rallying in the final nine minutes for victory.
Conque told the Bearbackers on Monday he could sense some lapses were coming after what he saw in practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, the major preparation days.
“Some of the young men who made mental and physical mistakes on the practice field, it transferred over to the field,” Conque said at the weekly luncheon. “We didn’t give the process its due respect last week and it almost cost us that football game.
“But how we practice, the detail, the hustle, playing with balance, finishing blocks, making catches.
The pressure we put on the practice situation with coaches and the pressure the players feel from us are absolutely more important to me right now.
Once we get the process correct and it becomes a part of our DNA and how we work mentally and the consequences for not doing that, then in the broader scope of things, we will win more football games than not because we will be prepared to do things the right way during the week.”
He compared the process to academic preparation.
“If you don’t study during the week, you may not pass that test on Friday,” Conque said.
“You may pass, but you may not make the grade you’d like. But you might do better if you study Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.”
He related the final nine minutes of the game, the juncture he was the proudest.
“We had an 81-yard, 11-play drive in which we had some spectacular individual efforts — blocking, catching and running — and you could see their defense starting to tire,” Conque said. “Jackie Hinton’s touchdown run was basically off two missed tackles.
“Then, on the extra point, the snap-kick-hold-protection were perfect.”
Conque said a couple of plays on second on third down when Murray State tried to produce a winning final drive were pivotal.
“On second-and-six, we stopped a screen pass for no gain, then they ran a draw on third down and we gave them a loss of two,” Conque said. “You have to look on what that did to the mindset of their kicker, whose previous longest kick was 48 yards. When it’s second and six, he might have been thinking he would have to make a 30- or 40-yard field goal and he could do that.
“We don’t know how having to make a 50-yarder might have had a pyschological effect on the young man. Having to kick a longer field goal may have changed the trajectory two inches or six inches — having a little bit more or drive vs. a little less elevation. Then, Marcus Dumas gets a good get-off, he makes a nice turn around the edge and he took it off the kicker’s foot.
“The last nine minutes of the game tells you a little about the character of this football team.”
He said when the team lapsed in the middle of the game, the offense had some mistakes and breakdowns on first and second down that led “to more than normal yardage situations on third down.”
He said the defense, although producing two turnoveres, missed 22 or 23 tackle attempts.
“You going to miss some tackles, but you’d like to keep it in the teens at least, not the 20s,” Conque said.
He praised Murray State and its development in its first year under Chris Hatcher and his staff, most of whom have been together since Valdosta State when UCA and the Blazers were conference rivals.
“That’s a good football team with a good coaching staff and they are going to win some games,” he said.
The Murray State defense gave the UCA running attack plenty of problems.
“They had a good scheme and they forced us to be really efficient,” he said. “They mixed their coverages and that bothered us. They were the most aggressive defense we’ve seen.”
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: On offense, the coaches selected quarterback Nathan Dick, who completed 60 percent of his passes with four drops and was UCA’s leading rusher with 47 yards.
“He’s quiet and inconspicuous, but he’s a competitive rascal now,” Conque said.
Linebacker Tok Opeloye got the coaches’ defensive player of the week award.
“He was by far the fastest and most physical of our defensive players,” Conque said.
The special teams honor went to Dumas. Safety Seth Allison got the “Big Stick” citation.
INJURIES: Conque said wide receiver Willie Landers, who injured the knee he didn’t have surgery on, will be week to week. Safety Radarius Winston should return for this week’s game at Tulsa. Defensive lineman Hutton Andrew (fractured tibia) is expected to be back for conference play.
THE PANCHO: Buster Faulkner, who coached UCA’s quarterbacks last season, was in the press box Saturday as Valdosta State’s offensive coordinator.
The UCA coaches had managers try to hide their offensive signals from him by holding a plain plastic pancho behind assistant Hud Jackson, who was relaying most of the signals.
At halftime, the coaches found out Faulkner was able to see some of the signals so they had the trainers make more pronounced wrap of the pancho about Jackson.
And the shield made be a recurring act the next few weeks.
This week at Tulsa, the Hurricane’s passing game coordinator, Mike Norvell, is a former standout wide receiver at UCA and also served on Conque’s coaching staff. The Bears open SLC play against Northwestern State, whose offensive coordinator is Todd Cooley, another former UCA assistant.