University of Central Arkansas football coach Steve Campbell looked fondly at the past and excitedly toward the future Monday at the final Bearbackers luncheon of 2017.
UCA’s season ended at 10-2 Saturday with a 21-15 loss to New Hampshire in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs at Estes Stadium. It ended a 10-game winning streak by the Bears.
“After the outstanding year by the young men, the season ended abruptly,” Campbell said. “We had planned on continued playing but you make the the mistakes we made (four turnovers, one a pick-6 and five sacks), you’re not gonna beat a good football team and New Hampshire is a good football team.”
Most of the 21 seniors on this year’s team were among Campbell’s first recruiting class at UCA along with a group of redshirts from Clint Conque’s last season.
“It was a great group that accomplished a lot,” Campbell said. “They re-established the great tradition we have here. They made progress that will allow us to take next steps.”
That group of seniors won 10 Division I games in a season twice. It had never been done once. During their tenure, the Bears won 33 games and were 29-6 in the Southland Conference.
“My first year, we lost three conference games,” Campbell said. “The next year, we lost two and led McNeese State, which won the conference, in the fourth quarter. The next year we lost one conference game (to champion Sam Houston State) and made the playoffs. This year, we were undefeated in conference. That sets up up for the next steps.”
He said he likes the mix of youth and experience that the Bears have returning plus those were redshirted.
And he’s excited about this year’s possible recruits, which begins for the first time with an early signing period, Dec. 20-22.
“We’re looking forward to getting back out in recruiting,” he said. “We didn’t want to be evaluating recruiting this week. We wanted to be game-planning. But we’ve met as coaches aned we’re quickly turning the page am making sure we turn over every stone and shake every bush to get the right people.
“One encouraging factor is looking at our recruits’ tweets and seeing how success in other sports has helped. I looked at tweets from our recruits Friday night and they were tweeting about how well our volleyball team was playing USC in the NCAA Regional. It’s a good sign to see their tweets compared to possible recruits at other schools tweeting about other stuff.”