A bear is supposed to hunt prey down for food. For the University of Northern Colorado Bears, it’s been more of being hunted rather than the hunter.
The Bears had a rough time the past three seasons resulting in a disappointing overall record of 6-25. Challenges have tested the team’s resilience and determination by highlighting the difficulties the team has faced on the field.
The Bears haven’t been able to gain any momentum for almost 20 years since the team moved up to Division I. The days of national championships in Division II are gone. Now, it is sad to look at the field with the football team going 0-11 this season. The last time this happened was in 2011. Numerous problems have always been brought forth to the Bears struggles but aren’t entirely addressed or known.
The Bears have encountered obstacles that have hindered their performance. One major hurdle has been the lack of consistent offense. The team has had to rely on broken plays which has affected their ability to compete against opponents. This lack of experience has been clear in their gameplay resulting in missed opportunities and a high turnover rate with 10 interceptions thrown compared to nine passing touchdowns.
Injuries have also played a role in the Bears lack of success over the last three seasons. Several key players like quarterback Jacob Sirmon and defensemen Jordan Knapke have suffered season ending injuries in the past which forced the team to depend on backups and younger players. Their performance on the field made it difficult for the team to establish a consistent and cohesive playing style that can be seen to the fans and students of UNC.
Competing within their conference has posed challenges for the team. Even with the Big Sky conference being considered one of the lowest in Division I, the Bears to are still not winning. The Bears’ history since being at the Big Sky conference has been a sour one as their overall record is 29-111 since joining the conference in July 2006.
Brandon Daniel, a fourth-year political science major and Bears football fan, has been noticing the struggles on the offensive side for the Bears this season.
“It comes down to the offense not being able to capitalize on what the defense gives them with the stops and turnovers,” Daniel said. “The offense needs to stay consistent every game in order to have even a chance at winning.”
The offensive performance has been a factor in the record. The team has been unable to find consistency in their game plan leading to a lack of scoring. This season, The Bears averaged 14 points per game and is the lowest in the conference. The offensive line has faced challenges in protecting the quarterback resulting in 16 sacks given up resulting in a loss of 84 yards total. These struggles have added pressure on the defense as they often must compensate for the team’s difficulties in creating scoring opportunities.
The Bear’s defense has struggled this year to protect the end zone by allowing 33 points per game in all eleven games played this season. While the points allowed per game is high, the defense has managed to secure key turnovers in each game to give the offense a chance to capitalize and score. The offense can’t seem to follow up on their end, leading to more obstacles and struggles.
Eddie Sisneros, a fourth-year Mexican American Studies major and PA announcer at UNC, has been disappointed by the Bears’ performance. He hopes there is room for improvement in the upcoming seasons.
“It’s been rough watching Bears football the past few years,” Sisneros said. “I really hope Coach Lamb bounces back from this year and builds the team more to compete with other Big Sky opponents.”
Despite these obstacles, the Bears have shown resilience and determination. The coaching staff has been working tirelessly to address weaknesses and improve performance by implementing different strategies and techniques to prepare players for on-field challenges. The staff have allowed younger players time on the field to display their skills like first-year receiver Brayden Munroe
The Bears have focused on recruiting athletes who can contribute to their success. By seeking players, the team aims to strengthen the roster and increase competitiveness. Recruiting efforts have been intensified to ensure that the Bears have both the talent and depth required for higher level competition. With the recruitment of young talent, The Bears look towards the future to rebuild and reload for future seasons.
Kurt Hinkle, author of Northern Light: The Complete History of the University of Northern Colorado Football Program, has seen the Bears win national championships. Hinkle has noticed that the struggles of the Bears is not what happens on the field, but away from the field in recruiting.
“Going up to Division I FBS sounded great on paper, especially off the heels of winning multiple national championships,” Hinkle said. “When you’re one of five schools within a 50-mile radius of each other, there’s trouble with recruiting. UNC should stick to recruiting locally to kids in nearby towns.”
The Bears have had an identity crisis every season since moving to Division I. Hinkle has taken notice of this.
“You need seasons of winning and that hasn’t been the case,” Hinkel said. “There hasn’t been a winning identity at UNC.”
It is well-known that the Bears need to overcome their struggles and improve their performance based on the last few seasons to compete in the future with teams in their conference. The Bears need to become the hunter rather than the hunted.