Bears finally get Collins first win as UNC head coach
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 03:09
It has been a long and hard road with close calls and big defeats, but the UNC football team was finally able to give its leader, head coach Earnest Collins Jr., his first win at his alma mater Saturday.
“I don’t know if there’s words to describe how amazing it feels right now,” junior quarterback Seth Lobato said. “To get his first one, and hopefully one of many, but I’m just happy for this team.”
Last season had moments when it seemed the University of Northern Colorado just couldn’t catch a break. The best example of this was in the season finale against Portland State. Then-senior wide receiver Patrick Walker’s tying touchdown was reversed after an illegal blocking call was made against current senior wide receiver Dominic Gunn, giving the Vikings a 23-17 victory. The Big Sky Conference acknowledged later the illegal block should not have been called at all, admitting Gunn was pushed into the Portland State player.
Collins said a first win, regardless of where it was earned, meant a lot, but there is still something special about being able to get a victory at Nottingham Field.
“It was awesome to get the win at home in front of the fans and the family,” Collins said. “It’s an awesome deal to get your first victory — whether it’s by 37 or if it had been by three — it wouldn’t have mattered because we got the victory. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Nearly 20 months after being hired to shape the program back into the success it had in the late 1990s, the team took its first step on the field to be what Collins and his staff believe it can be.
Collins’ job, in a long-term sense, is to transform the program. Finally getting his first win was only step one on the to-do list.
“This is a chance for me to come home to the place that made me who I am,” Collins said during a press conference after his hiring. “My mom and UNC made me the man I am today, so I am thankful for the opportunity to come home. I believe every coach’s dream is to come back and coach at his alma mater and win championships at his alma mater. I can’t wait to get started and see what we can accomplish. I know we can do some great things at UNC.”
Even though it is only the first win, it only takes one to get the ball rolling. Collins acknowledged the win was great but also said he knows there is another game next week and will need to switch focus to prepare for Sacramento State.
For this week, though, Collins saw a different team, one that had no trouble finishing plays and making opportunities instead of waiting for them.
“For me, after going 0-12, it feels good to get one,” Collins said. “I’m happy to have a victory under our belt, and we’re going to try and get many more. The kids played really hard. I was proud of them. Offense, defense and special teams, we struggled early, but we kept fighting.”
After the victory, the team showered Collins with water for the first time.
“It felt good, but they got me,” Collins said with a laugh. “Sometimes when you think something is coming, you kind of guard yourself with it, and I got distracted and next thing I know I’m getting doused. It’s good. I would take that any day. It wouldn’t matter how it comes, what the weather is, because that means a victory comes behind it.”
The win for Collins is one that can be the stepping stone for the program. But Collins said he did not return to UNC to win a single game, but rather to create a winning football team.
One game counts as one win. Collins and the team know that. But Nottingham Field was rejuvenated Saturday, and the team intends on keeping it that way for the sake of themselves, the fans, the university and, of course, their coach that brought them all — even for a day — a little something to cheer for.
“I’m happy for him,” Gunn said. “We’re going to bring him more. I’m confident in that.”
— Samantha Fox is a senior journalism and sociology major and the sports editor of The Mirror.