The Bears seek to wrap up leg two of what they hope will be an unbeaten November when West Alabama comes to Estes Stadium Saturday for another 3 p.m. kickoff.
At Monday’s Bearbackers meeting, Head Coach Clint Conque heaped high praise on his outstanding freshman runner Willie Hopson, who rushed for 201 yards on 12 carries, averaging 16.8 yards per carry. In the process, Hobson broke a longstanding school record for average rushing yards per game. The old mark had stood for more than 40 years after being established in 1958 by Henry Hawk, who averaged 12.8 yards a carry.
For his spectacular play, Hopson was named offensive player of the game by his coaches and also won the annual L.B. Jackman Award given to the outstanding player in the Homecoming Game.
The top defensive player went to senior tackle Jon Barbaree who Conque said had “the best game he’s had in the four years I’ve been here.”
John Newberry was the special teams player of the week after averaging 50.5 yards per punt. Conque also said the senior did an outstanding job of getting some snaps under control as a holder during placements.
Sophomore back Kentrel Rogers drew the coach’s praise as well. Rogers, who is slated for surgery in the off season, had 69 yards of rushing and “broke out a couple of times but just couldn’t make the safety miss,” Conque said. “He’s not at full speed, but he’s playing hard.”
The Bears’ two young kickers, sophomore Garrett Morgan and freshman James Paul also caught the eye of the head coach. Once after a personal foul penalty, Paul kicked a 78 yard laser that had 4.6 hang time and allowed the Bears to keep the kickoff return inside the 20. Morgan meanwhile was perfect on placements.
And to the question on the minds of many, Conque said Chris Reil will be the starter against West Alabama. Riel had 298 yards in the air last week, but Conque said he “was disappointed in three interceptions because we got locked into certain people. We’re trying to get more consistency at that position and we’ve got to eliminate turnovers to do that.”
Conque said this week’s opponent features last year’s leading passer in the Gulf South returning at quarterback along with a female field goal kicker who is enjoying a fine season percentage wise.
Tailgates sponsored by the Alumni Association and Staff Senate will be among the activities preceding the kickoff. Both start at noon.