Arkadelphia, AR —
Coach Tim McCarty has a paper Tiger on his hands at ECU as his team heads back into Arkansas for Saturday's 3 p.m. Great American Conference contest against Henderson State.
On paper his Tigers look awesome. They suit out with style. Stand nicely for the national anthem.
On the field, they can be had.
And Henderson State — this week's road opponent for the Tigers — is in its third-straight season of dominating the three-year-old GAC.
They are not the least bit sympathetic with the paper Tigers inability to remember snap counts or how to hold onto the football.
The Reddies’ three victories so far are by scores of 80-7, 75-10 and a relative squeaker in a 44-35 win last weekend over Southeastern in Durant.
McCarty's job, along with his staff, is to turn these paper Tigers into real-life menacing creatures with hostile dispositions and bad breath.
In a day or two.
After a season-opening victory over Arkansas Monticello, the team stepped up the competition and got knocked back to reality, losing to Southern Arkansas in Magnolia and Ouachita Baptist University in front of the home folks.
In a word, McCarty says, it's the team's toughness, or the lack of, that's killing this team in the early season.
“I don't mind saying that right now.We're just not tough enough,” he said in his office on the ECU campus Thursday morning.
Real teams, he notes, don't start seven drives in a single game with first down and-15. Mentally disciplined teams don't average more than 100 yards in penalties through each of the first three games.
“Do the kids feel bad when they jump offsides?” McCarty asks rhetorically. “Yeah, they do. They say, ‘I’m sorry’ or “My bad.” That does not solve the problem. Just don’t do it,” he said. “Everyone suffers.”