With a bruised and limping team after a 41-14 loss to Tulsa, University of Central Arkansas football coach Clint Conque says much of the attention during a open week will shift to the training room.
The Bears had seven starters leave the game with various types of injury against Tulsa, including starting quarterback Nathan Dick. The most serious appears to be a knee injury to cornerback Marcus Dumas, who blocked a field goal to assure the victory over Murray State. His knee will be evaluated in a series of tests this week. UCA left three starters at home Saturday with injuries, wide receiver Willie Landers, defensive back Karl Brady and defensive lineman Jermaine Lett.
With injuries to defensive backs Radarious Winston, Dumas, Jestin Love and Seth Allison, the Bears finished the Tulsa game with Henry Minor at safety. The senior had never played safety before.
UCA (3-1) does not play Saturday, then opens Southland Conference play Oct. 9 at home.
The open week will warrant a four-pronged approach, Conque said Monday at the weekly Bearbackers luncheon.
"Healing and treatment will be a priority," he said, "We’re putting a lot of pressure on the injured players to make sure they are in the training room two or three times a day and also do the things at home they need to do to get well. No. 2, we want to build strength both physically and academically. We’re getting back in the weight room. Third, we are going back to working on fundamentals, particularly with our younger players. Our assistant coaches will be out recruiting at various times during the week in a six-state area to maintain contacts, look at video on various players and pick up transcripts and things like that.
"There will be a lot going on this week even though we don’t play a game."
Conque said he liked how hard the Bears played against Tulsa, he liked his team’s improved attitude in practice and he thought the schemes were sound.
"At some positions we were just physically outmanned," he said. "It was obvious at certain positions our physical immaturity showed up. At the end of the day, Tulsa just whipped up."
He said there were two key junctures in Saturday night’s game at Tulsa.
"With six minutes left in the half, we were trailing 14-7," he said. "A lot of stuff had happened but it was still 14-7. But we did not play good football for the last six minutes and Tulsa flexed its muscles and got into halftime with a 24-7 lead.
"In the third quarter, it was 27-7 and we had first and goal on their 6 and lost a fumble on their 4. I would have liked to have coached that fourth quarter training 27-14. I would have liked to have seen how our team, down 27-14, would have done in that quarter against Tulsa, a Conference-USA team that has been to a bowl game six straight years. We fumble and Tulsa says, ‘That’s enough,’ and drives 96 or 97 yards for a touchdown.
"But I was pleased how we played the second half. We kept believing and we kept fighting and we stayed in that football game as long as we could with a decimated team."
THE POSITIVES: Conque said he was pleased with the running of backs Jackie Hinton and Terence Bobo, the play of receiver Kenneth Robey, the turnovers forced by the defense and the improvement in the kicking game. He said he was generally pleased with the effort of backup quarterback Wynrick Smothers, who had to play more than half the game when Dick left late in the second half with a shoulder injury.
"Wynrick did some very good things and some very freshman things," Conque said. "But he will learn more from this experience than anything we can teach him in practice, The best thing he did was when we were on our 1-yard line and he readjusted his feet under pressure and fired a strike to Dominique Croom for a first down that we need to have to get out from under our goal post."
But he conceded it’s not a happy locker room right now.
"Nobody’s happy because nobody likes losing no matter how outmanned we were to an FBS team. We didn’t play consistently well and that’s why we got whipped."
PLAYERS OF THE GAME: The coaches selected Lloyd Loggins as defensive player of the week. Robey earned offensive honors. For his punting, particularly away from Damaris Johnson, Tulsa’s dangerous returner, Eddie Carmona got the special teams citation. Trey Lippe and Austin Emerson got "Big Stick" Awards for hits on pass protection.