NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Despite being 1-5 at the halfway point of the season, SFA head coach Colby Carthel remains optimistic about the direction the program is headed.
SFA’s latest setback was this past Saturday when they lost to rival Sam Houston 31-20 in the 94th edition of the Battle of the Pineywoods. With just over six minutes to go SFA held a small lead but that lead went away and SFA never recovered and the Bearkats moved their winning streak to 9 wins over SFA.
“We got to learn how to win the close games,” Carthel said. " We have had our setbacks this season. It seems like if it can go wrong it will go wrong. It is frustrating not to win."
When Carthel first addressed media from around the conference at Football Media Day in July he said he did not know what success would look like and wins were going to be hard to come by. In their first game SFA trailed Baylor by a touchdown after the first quarter. In their second game SFA was in it late against Tarleton State and minus a few big gains by the Texans SFA should have won the game. In their third game a questionable call in overtime lifted Southern Utah over the 'Jacks. In their conference opener SFA went toe-to-toe with Nicholls to lose at the end.
“It is frustrating not to win,” Carthel said. “Everybody sees it. Everybody in that stadium knows it. wearing purple and orange. It is just unfortunate we just can’t get it done right now... Sam Houston was the better team out there. I think if we played them 10 times they would win seven of them. Off season matters. That was evident on that field just looking at their players and the way they are built. Training year round. We challenge our guys about that. We have good young players but we have to develop them and grow them in to great older players. On the field it was evident who hit harder, who was bigger and who was stronger and that was the team in orange."
This was the first time coach Carthel was part of the rivalry game and other then the score it wads an enjoyable experience. Without being asked Carthel did give his opinion on the game. It has been at NRG Stadium for 10 years. In 2015 one Star Sports Entertainment extended their contract on the game to keep it in Houston for the foreseeable future. The past two seasons has seen a decline in attendance with this years game witnessed in person by over 2,500 fewer people.
“It is a great environment and it is great to play in that type of venue,” Carthel said, “I think we need to switch sidelines. It has become evident that we have set on the same sideline for 10 years in a row and I do not know who agreed on that but that’s dumb because there is some advantages to sit opposite of the press boxes. That is why we have those big drapes and everything. I want to see that change and I don’t know who does it but that needs to be changed. We need to have a better record and be more competitive going into it. We need t get more purple to show up. We were outnumbered by a fan standpoint and I understand that. We need to get that fixed. We need to put a better product on the field. I think you will see that in years future where it is two top 10 teams playing. It won’t be 24,000 but 32,000 - 40,000 and more purple.”
Carthel also mentioned a rotation of sites would be an idea he is behind.
“I might get in trouble for saying this but personally I would like to see it on a three year rotation,” Carthel said. “Play a game here, play a game at Huntsville and play a game at NRG. That is my personal opinion. I think college rivalries are special to have on your own campus and going to an opposing team’s venue and being surrounded by people that don’t like you. Those are questions and answers above my pay scale and just my personal opinion.”
SFA will now go into the bye week and work on getting healthy and ready for a road game at Abilene Christian.
“I think the six games we have a chance just comparing scores and seeing what is out there,” Carthel said. We are going to have to fight every week tooth and nail but I think every game is winnable. As coaches that is what we work for. This is going to be a tough coaching job for us. We are going to have to earn our paycheck. There is nothing to play for. There is no big Battle of the Pineywoods and trying to win that game. There is no post season. As a staff we have been to the post season 14 straight years and that will come to an end and that is disappointing. There is no championship left dangling out there so we are going to find out who wants to play this game for the right reason and get out there and put our best foot forward."