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Sometimes A Fine Line Exists Between Spectator And Player
University of Central Arkansas linebacker Jacob Bundrick. along for the ride in the early part of the season, didn’t realize how much he would be tossed into a Hurricane situation.
Bundrick is a true freshman linebacker from Springdale Har-Ber who had not played a down in any of the Bears’ first three games, including NCAA Division II Elizabeth City State.
He had caught the eye of coaches and gradually moved up the depth chart.
Frank Newsome, the Bears’ starting middle linebacker, sustained a concussion in the first quarter at Tulsa. Bundrick ended up playing 55 snaps against the Golden Hurricane before he was injured himself.
“And he did pretty good,” coach Clint Conque said. “He missed a a couple of assignments and he missed a tackle once because he was in the wrong place on the kickoff team. But not twice. He’s a smart kid.
“But I don’t think he woke up Saturday morning thinking the game was going to be his coming-out party. I don’t think he woke up expecting to play 55 snaps against Tulsa of Conference USA.”
But that’s part of the maturing process of this UCA team. Some young players are having to grow up in a hurry.
Seven starters left Saturday’s game with injury.
The open week is welcome to UCA. Only one starter (defensive back Marcus Dumas, who has a knee injury) is definitely out of the Oct. 9 game against Northwestern State. What happens in the training room this week is just as important as what happens on the practice field.
What’s interesting is six of the injuries to UCA players were the result of teammates running into each other.
“We played awfully hard and when you play hard in a violent and reckless game, things like that can happen,” Conque said. “Tulsa has an awfully lot of team speed. When you’re running hard against that kind of speed, it’s hard to make cuts and control your balance and you’re momentum and change direction.”
It was a danger with the Bears playing a higher-level team in a “revenue game.” The Hurricane were bigger, stronger, faster and deeper. The major injuries likely to occur in these cases relate to concussions or shoulders or knees (which get twisted an awkward angles.
“Our physical immaturity at certain positions was obvious,” Conque said. “With some of the younger players we have, their shoulders are not as developed. When you’re going hard, it’s a lot of torque.”
But every Southland Conference team has had similar problems. All have played Football Bowl Subdivision teams as money games. The problem is teams can get beat up. That’s why most of the SLC teams have an open playing date this week with a full conference schedule beginning Oct. 9.
Thus, a key to the conference season are which teams get and stay healthiest quicker and, in the cases, where a backup is needed for an extended period of time, which backups mature, both mentally and physically, the quickest.
“We’re not going to make excuses because injuries are part of the game,” Conque said. “It’s a matter of rehabilitation or getting the ‘next one’ ready.”
While there is no game Saturday, a lot of what happens away from the field will be critical.
By David McCollum, Log Cabin Democrat