McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, December 05, 2013 9:24 PM
The only arrow left in the sling of Matt Viator’s detractors is his lack of playoff success.
Of course, that arrow hits home with the precision of William Tell.
Though he is the third-winningest coach in McNeese State history, behind Bobby Keasler and Jack Doland, Viator remains the only coach with 40 or more career wins at the school to have never won a postseason game. Doland, Les DeVall and A.I. Ratcliff each won bowl games in the pre-Division I-AA/Football Championship Subdivision era.
Call it the monkey on his back, the albatross around his neck or any other metaphor that fits the bill. When No. 6 McNeese hosts Jacksonville State on Saturday, Viator will be looking to snap a personal three-game losing streak in the playoffs and a five-game losing streak for the program.
“Obviously anybody would want to win when you’ve lost the last three,” Viator said. “But I think more importantly, if you go back and look at those three games, we didn’t play very well.
“What I told the players is, ‘Let’s try to prepare ourselves the best we can play. And if that’s not good enough, we’ll go home.’
“My objective is to get us to play as well as we can. The common theme in those three games is we didn’t play very well. And hopefully we can change that.”
The Cowboys have been outscored 124-34 in their last three playoff games.
Viator has made sure to frame the losing streak being about him and not the players. But it is the players who are arguably the hungriest to snap it.
“He’s a great guy, and he’s taken care of me since I got here,” said senior safety Terence Cahee. “I’d like to get a lot of people off his back. I would like to get him his first playoff win. And maybe second, third and fourth.”
“To get this win would be great to show he really is a great coach,” said senior running back Marcus Wiltz. “He knows what he’s doing. Us players, especially the senior class, have really bought into the system and trust in what he’s doing.”
Appropriately, the Cowboys are looking to end their 11-year playoff drought against a team which snapped a much longer streak last week.
Jacksonville State entered last week’s game having lost all three of its previous FCS playoff appearances. The Gamecocks had not won a playoff game since the 1992 Division II championship.
That was wiped away with a 55-14 blasting of Samford.
“It’s a validation of our program,” said JSU coach Bill Clark. “It was a monkey on our back. People do talk about it.”
Undoubtedly, Viator hopes to deliver a similar message on Saturday night.