SFA head football coach J.C. Harper. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 6:55 PM
Two teams with seemingly more talent than wins meet tonight at Cowboy Stadium. For the loser, the season is over. For the winner, there is still something left to play for even if it requires the help of others to achieve the goal of postseason play.
McNeese (4-3, 1-3 Southland) finds itself in a must-win situation due to a pair of one-point conference losses. The Cowboys are one narrow play away in each game — and there are several to choose from — from entering tonight with a comfortable 6-1 record.
“McNeese is a very talented football team,” said SFA coach J.C. Harper. “You don’t beat Middle Tennessee on the road if they’re not. They have had some injuries to maybe change some things. I like to think we’re good at throwing the football. We’ve got to be better at not turning the ball over.”
SFA (3-4, 2-1) has a number of close losses to top-notch competition to thank for its predicament. The Lumberjacks have lost to a pair of top-five teams in the Football Championship Subdivision — No. 4 Montana State (43-35) and No. 5 Sam Houston State (51-43) and Football Bowl Subdivision Texas State (41-37).
“They were right there in all those games,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “They’ve got a good football team.”
As is usually the case under Harper, the Lumberjacks bring a powerful offense to the table.
SFA leads the nation in passing with an average of 425.1 yards per game. Quarterback Brady Attaway’s favorite target is Walter Payton Award candidate Cordell Roberson, who has only been held under 100 receiving yards twice this season.
“You have to tackle. That’s the main thing,” Viator said. “Any time you throw it 60 times, you’re going to complete passes. Even if you only hit half of them you complete 30 balls. The key is you have to tackle them and not allow yards after the catch, which we didn’t do (last week against Sam Houston).”
The Cowboys are trying to rebound from back-to-back losses and keep their playoff hopes on life support.
“Games like this kind of take care of themselves as far as (not) having to reiterate how big it is. They understand that,” Viator said. “What (we’ve been) trying to do is have good practices and give them the confidence they need to compete at the highest level we can get. It’s one of those things that’s unexplainable at times.”
Viator said he expects to have running back Javaris Murray in the lineup. He missed last week’s game at Sam Houston State.
McNeese has lost three straight to the Lumberjacks. The Cowboys haven’t lost four consecutive games to any conference opponent since Northwestern State took five in a row from 1985-89.