HELENA — It was a long bus ride home for Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell.
He just watched Southern Oregon squander his team’s 19-point lead and end up with a shocking 29-28 win last Saturday afternoon in Ashland.
But when he arrived back in Helena, he knew there was only one thing he could do.
Purcell told his players that dwelling on the loss was not an option.
“It took me 15 to 20 years of my life to understand that, when Sunday comes around, you have to let it go,” Purcell said. “There is a 24-hour rule with a win or a loss that you have to move on.”
That vision was something he not only preached to his players, but it was something he had to learn when he was a young coach at the high school level.
“If we got a loss during the first game of the year, pretty soon you are thinking that that game could have cost us a playoff game,” Purcell said. “I’d be upset until Wednesday, and then I got nervous with the next game coming up. It’s just constant stress about things you can’t control about a game.”
Purcell went on to be a successful high school coach, winning state titles with Class A Havre and Class AA Bozeman.
But Purcell put in the effort to watch and learn from his mistakes. Even last week, he said he spent time rewatching the game, figuring out what his team could improve on and what he could have done better as a coach.
“Every coach on the planet does that,” Purcell said. “If they are worth a dang, they should rewatch it and say, ‘We should get better at this or get better at that.’”
Certainly, the Saints have improved in multiple areas this year.
At the near midway point of the season, Carroll’s offense is ranked third in scoring offense and second in total offense.
With young players showing production, such as running back Matthew Burgess and quarterback Devan Bridgewater, the Saints are now sitting in the upper half of the Frontier Conference.
“There are a lot of positive things that have happened,” Purcell said. “I think the focus is there and the excitement is there. We just have to learn how to finish and put those teams away when we have that opportunity.”
But a loss like last week certainly did not help. The Saints are now two games behind the College of Idaho and Montana Western for first place.
Practice was back to normal this week as the players woke up at the normal time, before sunrise, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And while the Saints have this week off, Purcell is focusing on what they can control.
“Both of those (losses), we had a lead and then found a way to give it away,” Purcell said. “(Our opponents) found a way to put together perfect drives and were able to stop the offense. You have to convert, and it’s a team effort all the way around. I think everybody was waiting for somebody to make the play, so they just need to be their best when their best is needed.”
Carroll is moving forward.