HELENA — It was just any other Thursday afternoon for Carroll College.
Players worked on some individual drills to warm up, and then they came together signaling the start of practice.
There was no mention of the 16-hour bus ride home, and there was no mention of a heartbreaking 29-28 loss to Southern Oregon.
They didn’t need to be reminded they gave up a 19-point lead in the third quarter.
“We didn’t finish that game the way we wanted to last week and now we have to sit on it for two weeks,” Saints coach Troy Purcell said.
This week is the annual bye week for the Frontier Conference where all eight teams will not be playing.
During the break, there is time for players to finally take a breath, get caught up on school work and, for coaches, they can even hit the road to recruit for the upcoming seasons.
But Purcell also wants to focus on scouting themselves.
This was the second game in four weeks that the Saints (2-2, 2-2) gave up a lead in the fourth quarter.
“We have to learn how to finish,” Purcell said. “We left some opportunities up at Southern Oregon and you can’t do that against good teams.”
The fourth quarter hasn’t been kind to the Saints, so far.
Over the four games, Carroll has only outscored their opponents by 5 points during the fourth quarter, while outscoring their opponents by 52 points during the first three quarters.
“They are a younger group, in a way. Just being in those types of situations where you have a lead and to be able to finish,” Purcell said. “It's one of the reasons we really emphasize it.”
That’s not to say that the young players aren't willing to learn. It’s a trait that Purcell loves about his team.
“Every kid that made one of those mistakes feels as bad as anybody,” Purcell said. “They are taking accountability for it and, as the head coach, I’m taking accountability as well.”
Redshirt quarterback Devan Bridgewater could only watch from the sidelines last Saturday as Southern Oregon scored the game-winning touchdown on a five-minute, 75-yard drive.
“Great offenses win in the fourth quarter and we didn’t do that,” Bridgewater said. “Momentum came into play and, usually, whoever has it wins the game.”
“We all felt we let one slip away from us but, even now, it’s a loss that is eating at us.”
The Saints might have two weeks until they return to Nelson Stadium and resume conference play, but they will also host the ninth-ranked team in the country, the College of Idaho.
“It’s nice to have two weeks to prepare for them, but we 100 percent have a chip on our shoulder,” Bridgewater said. “We want to prepare even harder, and I don’t want a losing record. I’m determined, I’m motivated and I'm ready to get these boys going.”
Over the last five seasons, Carroll has come off its bye week with a 2-3 combined record. One of the wins came against the College of Idaho.