Home hasn’t been entirely sweet this season for the University of Central Arkansas Bears.
UCA has lost two of its three Southland Conference games at home this season and has played its best games on the road.
That has not been lost on UCA coach Clint Conque and his staff as they go into this afternoon’s regular-season finale with several things at stake and probably having to play its best game of the season against McNeese State, which can at least share a league title with a victory.
"There are no more athletic dorms nowadays where everyone was together; a lot of our juniors and seniors live off campus," Conque said. "It seems there are a lot more distractions nowadays. We are physically enforcing curfew for home games around. When we are on the road, we are all together at the same place and that makes it easier to keep everyone focused.
"Our young men also like to play at night and this year at home we have played a lot more daytime games. Most of our players enjoy night games and maybe our focus is better in the daytime. It (not playing as well at home) is something we’ve recognized. And we’re not passive about it."
If the Bears win, they still have an outside chacne at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs even though they don’t have the required seven Division I victories. However, they could enter an auxiliary at-large pool if there are not 10 teams around the country with seven FCS victories. McNeese State is in the same situation with a victory and victory by Stephen F. Austin over Northwestern State.
Conque would also like to send off 13 seniors with a 7-4 season and a winning season in the SLC.
But the challenge is great. The Cowboys, who have played one of the toughest schedules in their history (including LSU) have won five straight conference games after losing their opener to SFA.
"Defensively, they are healthier since earlier in the season and I’m sure this is not the best unit on defense that I’ve seen McNeese have in the last four years," Conque said. "They have a lot of veterans and seniors in their front line and they play fast.
"On offense, two-deep, they are as good as anybody in the league."
"We’ve had injuries but we’ve got some guys back and we’re playing better on defense," McNeese coach Matt Viator said. "At some time in the season, we got our confidence back and that relates to getting guys back."
Viator was just also complimentary about UCA.
"It’s a huge challenge because I’ve always been impressed with what they (the Bears) do and how they do it," he said. "On offense, what they do they do extremely well. Their defensive line looks the same to me.
"What impresses you with the things UCA does on defense is they are never out of position to make plays. What you get, you earn."
"What we would like to do is to establish the line of scrimmage and that opens up the playbook," Conque said.