Head football coach Clint Conque said at Monday’s weekly Bearbackers Luncheon, “It was nobody’s fault but mine.” He was referring to the 28-23 setback to Henderson State Saturday night before 6,000 plus fans on a perfect football night at Estes Stadium.
“Give Henderson credit and give Jessie (head coach Jessie Branch) credit. They contained us offensively,” Conque continued.
Time of possession figured prominently in the Henderson upset. The Reddies controlled the clock with their throwback triple-option, keeping the ball 37 minutes to just 23 for the crippled-up Bears who were limited to 60 plays as a result. The Bears had only eight normal possessions until recovering an onsides kick setting the stage for the final heart-stopping four plays.
“I’m proud of our players the last three minutes of the game,” Conque told another big crowd of Bearbackers. “Hopefully, we can build on that.” Saying that “we didn’t deserve to win, but the onsides kick gave us a chance,” Conque smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have given it back (If the Bears had been able to punch it in as the clock was winding down.)
“It’s a setback,” he continued, “but we’re a better team than we showed Saturday.” He said he was disappointed at times with the Bears’ effort. He cited a “couple of personal foul penalties…one bogus” as being critical factors, then added, “Regardless we didn’t play well enough to win.”
Of the key fourth down pass that fell to the turf, Conque said, “I will call that pass to Michael Norvell every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”
He also praised the efforts of quarterback Henry Young who riddled the HSU defense on a 23-33 passing performance, including three touchdowns and no interceptions as well as tight end Landon Trusty whose touchdown catch and run where he carried several Reddies into the end zone with him “got us ignited” according to Conque. “He’s a big-time football player.”
“There’s a lot of blame,” Conque said, “and it starts with me.” He said he doesn’t “apologize” for calling a fake punt that fell just short of a first down. “It just didn’t work out,” he said. “I didn’t want to punt it back to them and let them eat another six or seven minutes off the clock.”
Conque also singled out Cory Cangelosi whose 13 hits led to defensive player of the game honors and Jasper Johnson of Pine Bluff for his spirited play on special teams.
During a Q&A session, Conque called the “illegal substitution” penalties “unacceptable” and told the boosters the problem had been “addressed.” “They just wanted it a little more,” he summarized. “They played a little harder, but I wouldn’t trade one of our players for any one of their players.”
He said the “sun came up Sunday morning” and the Bears got back Sunday night and looked at the game film. He shared that he told the players and coaches (including himself) to ask themselves if they gave it their all on each play.
“We’ve got our hands full this week,” he said of Ouachita where the Bears play at 7 p.m. Saturday night. “They have one of the best running backs in the conference, if not the best, and Todd (OBU coach Todd Knight) has more of the pieces of the puzzle now than ever before.”
Sports Information Director Steve East opened the meeting with a recap of the recent action of other Bears athletic teams and athletic director Vance Strange followed with a summary of the highly successful third Hall of Fame weekend. The Bears come back to Estes Stadium on October 4 in a Gulf South game against another longtime rival, the University of Arkansas at Monticello.