Athletic Director Vance Strange perhaps best summed the Herculean effort by the Bears Saturday on the road at Valdosta against either the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the country depending on the polls when he said, ?It made the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and it brought tears to your eyes.?
UCA fell 26-21 to the NCAA II powerhouse in a game that literally went down to the final play.
The Bears held Valdosta to just 360 yards of total offense and became the first team in five years to compile more than 150 yards on the ground (Valdosta was permitting an average of only 45 yards rushing this season before the Bears more than tripled that total on Saturday.)
“We’ve got a class bunch of young men,” head coach Clint Conque said. Earlier, Strange, Sports Information Director Steve East and President Lu Hardin had all echoed those sentiments.
Hardin, who made the trip to Valdosta with the team, called it “one of the finest games I’ve seen in the past five to seven years.”
He said the Bears are “some of the finest young men in the state and certainly of those playing football. I’m very proud of the effort, but very proud of these young men.”
Conque concurred and noted a number of things that typically aren’t publicized about the team in today’s win-at-all-cost society. He pointed out a Thursday night Bible study attended by 40 players last week, as well the players who work with the Optimist Football League and periodically are asked to speak at elementary schools throughout the
Conque thanked the administration for flying the team to Valdosta, with the alternative being a 16-17 hour bus trip.
The Bears lost three more players to injuries during the game, but Conque said those who can are “gutting it up and playing through it.”
He cited the punting of All-American John Newberry, which Conque said, “absolutely controlled the game.” Also the UCA defense pulled off two goal line stands and recovered an onsides kick by true freshman James Paul, which put the team in position to pull out a win.
Both Paul and Newberry were named Players of the Week along with Steven Nowlin, John Barbaree and Gary Davis.
The good news-bad news portion of the UCA schedule going into week eight is that No. 1 Valdosta is over with, but North Alabama (7-0) looms this week and could be better than Valdosta.
North Alabama is ranked in the Top 10 and averaging 48 points per game. Last week, North Alabama went to Russellville and completely dismantled ATU, 55-9. Kickoff
Saturday at Florence , Alabama will be 6 p.m. Homecoming will be the following Saturday, Nov. 1.