McNeese State's Cody Stroud throws under pressure from Sam Houston State's Eddie Decambre during their game last season. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 7:07 PM
Tonight, McNeese State will find out whether it bounces back like a rubber ball or an egg.
The Cowboys (4-2, 1-2 Southland) will attempt to rebound from last weekend’s last-minute loss to Central Arkansas in a crucial 7 p.m. game at No. 6 Sam Houston State (4-2, 2-1). The playoff hopes of both teams may be in the balance.
“It’s a huge game for both of us,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “It’s two good football teams. It will take a great effort.”
The Bearkats figure to have a frenzied crowd waiting for their first home game since the Sept. 8 season opener. Sam Houston played three road games and two neutral-site games in the time between.
One of first things I told them after Nicholls is ‘Hey guys, we’re going back home,’” said Bearkats coach Willie Fritz. “We are excited about being back home, but you have to play. That’s the trick. Once the ball is kicked off it doesn’t matter where you are playing at.”
The Cowboys and Bearkats like to win games the same way — by running the ball and not allowing their opponents to do the same.
Sam Houston leads the conference with 259.8 yards per game on the ground, while McNeese is second with 235.3. No one else in the league averages more than 150.
When it comes to defending the run, Sam Houston (62 ypg) and McNeese (69.2 ypg) rank second and third in the nation behind only Harvard.
McNeese’s ability to gash for rushing yards may be hindered by the health of Javaris Murray, who is considered questionable for tonight. If he can’t play, Kelvin Bennett will be the Cowboys’ third back behind Marcus Wiltz and Champlain Babin.
“They have a good run defense, but I have the most confidence in my offensive line,” Wiltz said. “We’re going to put that run defense to the test no matter what they’re ranked.”
With a possible stalemate looming on the ground, both coaches agree this game may be determined by which team can make the most big plays through the air.
“I don’t think there is any questiong it could hinge on that,” Viator said. “That’s a fair assessment with a bunch of other things, like don’t turn the ball over. But if it’s an equally competitive game and neither are shooting themselves in the foot, it can come down to who can hit a big gain.”
“I’m sure there’s going to some big pass plays in this ballgame,” Fritz said. “I think our (defensive) philopsopies are very similar. Scott Stoker and Coach (Mike) Collins come from very similar backgrounds.”
McNeese cornerback Seth Thomas said the secondary has to remain diligent against play-action passing for the entire game.
“Me and Aaron Sam were up watching film on (our off day),” Thomas said. “They like to use motion to deceive you with your eyes in the backfield and the DB’s just sort of fall asleep. We can’t fall asleep back there because they can play-action and throw it over the top whenever they want.”