NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release) - Stephen F. Austin is utilizing its bye week of the 2016 season, and the break seemingly couldn't come at a better time. After starting the year 3-1, including a 2-0 mark in Southland Conference play, the injury-depleted Lumberjacks have lost three-straight games, sitting at 3-4 and 2-3 in SLC play.
Head coach Clint Conque has traditionally used his bye weeks as a time for player development, and this season has been no different. After seven-straight weeks of competition, the off week has served as chance for the Lumberjacks to heal in a variety of ways.
"This is a big week for a lot of aspects of the program," Conque said. "The first is development of our younger plays. We’ll get a couple days with them exclusively, which will be important to them. It will be a good time for them to be on the field and get some one-on-one coaching. For the older guys and the front line guys, they need some separation and to have a few days off. This is a time for them to get their bodies healthy and minds in a better frame. We’ll be in the weight room and training room. Then for the entire team, this gives them time to do some academic healing as well: an emphasis on papers, homework, tutoring and those kinds of things."
The upper classmen and regular starters were given Tuesday and Wednesday off from practice as Conque and the rest of the coaching staff focused on a group of around 40 players, consisting of underclassmen and back-ups, giving them the full attention of two practice sessions.
SFA held a full team practice Thursday afternoon at Homer Bryce Stadium, the final organized team activity of the week. The Lumberjacks will have an opportunity for an off weekend Friday and Saturday, returning for team meetings and practice Sunday night.
Once the 'Jacks return to campus, the focus will shift to the stretch run of the 2016 season, which begins on Saturday, October 29th in San Antonio. SFA will make its first-ever trip to the Alamo City, taking on Incarnate Word at 6 p.m. at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium. The 'Jacks then return home for its 2016 Homecoming game, taking on Central Arkansas on Saturday, November 5th.
Head Coach Clint Conque's Monday Press Conference Transcript
On the loss to Southeastern Louisiana:
“It was a tough loss to a really good football team that is really finding their stride. They were very difficult to game plan to defend because there’s multiple formations in the backfield, option-based, and seven to eight man protect. It’s hard to get to the quarterback at times in that situation. I thought their wide receivers made some great catches throughout the game. We ourselves a big whole early and gave up too many big plays defensively. It was good to seeLoren Easly back healthier and give us some long runs. I was glad at how we kept battling and put ourselves in a competitive position to try to win that game after being behind, but we just did not play the last eight minutes of winning football. We had the field goal blocked and returned due to a low kick. (Storm Ruiz) has made that kick before, he just hit it low. Then we had a pick six on the next series. We’re just not built at personnel for shootouts. But it was good to see Loren Easly with a couple long touchdown runs and about 170 yards, three touchdowns. I think John Franklin really played well. The physicality he played with - he knocked their starting quarterback out in the third quarter with a big hit. We had a number of guys making their second career start - Travis Lock at offensive guard did some good things and Tamrick Pace had four catches. Trae Hart, who was suspended for the first half, came back and did some damage with a punt return and six catches in the second half. Marlon Walls, with one exception, played really well. Trey Ramos, a true freshman from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, made a couple plays for us on the special teams and a fumble recovery. You’ll probably see him a little bit more at free safety moving forward. I thought we stopped the run, with an exception of one long run. They averaged about three yards a carry, which was what we wanted to do. We lost (cornerback) Aaron Foy in the game, a position we can ill afford to lose a player at. We had a lot of yards, but not enough points. At the end of the day, we gave up too many big plays throughout the game. When we need to play our best is in those crunch time situations, and we didn’t do that.”
On the health of the team:
“It’s no secret we’re not real healthy. None of the fourteen guys that we had talked about (in last week’s press conference) are coming back because of season-ending injuries. Aaron Foylooked good on the sideline, but then our long snapper (Chris Wilkerson) had a high ankle sprain. With the open week coming up, we’ll try to get him as healthy as possible. We’re not the same team right now as when we were 3-1 and 2-0 in the conference. It’s obvious to everybody, and we’re pieced together at some positions. Our depth at receiver is very challenged, and we’re down to one corner who we started camp with. We’re pretty challenged on the offensive line as well. But the open date gives us a chance to work with our younger players and that player development aspect will be very important to them the last four games of the season as well as the future of the program.”
On the focus of the team during the bye week:
“We’ve had three tough weeks, no question about it. We’re not the same team we were three weeks ago. We started strong, even getting a win in Lake Charles, but even during those weeks, you could see the depth our team starting to deteriorate. When you lose three in a row, mentally it wears on the coaches and players. We all had higher expectations, particularly after the way we started the season. The hand that we’re given right now is the hand that we have. This is a big week for a lot of aspects of the program. The first is development of our younger plays. We’ll get a couple days with them exclusively, which will be important to them. It will be a good time for them to be on the field and get some one-on-one coaching. For the older guys and the front line guys, they need some separation and to have a few days off. This is a time for them to get their bodies healthy and minds in a better frame. We’ll be in the weight room and training room. Then for the entire team, this gives them time to do some academic healing as well: an emphasis on papers, homework, tutoring and those kinds of things. We also have one eye on recruiting. Our coaches are out early this week and then they’ll be out on Friday. So, it’s a busy week, but I do think that open dates midseason are good because it gives you a chance to recharge, refresh and get ready for the last four games of the year.”
On the focus for the final four games of the season:
“You hope the seniors see their mortality a little bit and that they’ll crank it up a notch. Then there are the opportunities because of so many upperclassmen that are down to have others earn their spots. Players like a Trey Ramos, who has been playing primarily on special teams for us. He’s done plenty there, and I think he’s done enough to warrant some more scrimmage snaps at free safety. It’s an opportunity for the younger guys to grow in these last four weeks. For your upperclassmen, particularly seniors, they have two games left at Homer Bryce, two on the road, and the Battle for Chief Caddo coming up at the end of the year, so there’s still an awful lot to play for. There are some goals still out there for us: a winning season, win your Homecoming, and getting the Chief back to campus. Right now we’re focused on ourselves this week. We will be game planning and doing some self-scouting on ourselves as we get ready for Incarnate Word, who is a much improved team. They play very well at home. I’m sure they will have their stinger out for us because we’ve beaten them here in Nacogdoches the last two years and Coach Kennan has a done wonderful job with that program. They already have a couple unlikely skins on the wall this year. So, obviously it will be a huge test for us when we get to that game. But right now the focus is on ourselves, trying to get us mentally, academically, emotionally and physically as healthy as we can for this stretch run.”