The closer coach Clint Conque gets to the biggest stage a University of Central Arkansas team has ever played on, so accompany the butterflies.
“Opening the season at Ole Miss? It seemed like a good idea last year,” Conque quipped.
The Bears, an NCAA FCS quarterfinalist last season coming off a 9-4 record and a top-25 rating in all Football Championship Subdivision ratings this season, open at the Rebels in their debut under former Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze at 6:06 p.m. Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
It will be the first time a UCA football team has played a Southeastern Conference opponent. A crowd that is expected to be in excess of 60,000, will represent the largest a UCA athletic team has played before.
“You look at their 2-10 record last year, but they are only two years removed from back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances,” Conque said. “They took Arkansas deep into the game last year with a chance to win. They have SEC football players — maybe not as many as LSU or Alabama or Arkansas or Florida, but they are SEC football players and players other SEC teams wanted. This is a huge challenge, but a great opportunity.
“I like our football team. We are going there to put ourselves in a position to win.”
The Rebels are 86-25-5 in season openers and have won 13 of the last 16. Ole Miss is 52-14 against non-conference opponents since 1994 and are have won 11 of their last 14 openers at Oxford.
Under Conque, the Bears are 9-3 in season openers.