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Lamar coach Ray Woodard and McNeese State coach Matt Viator shake hands after their game last season. (American Press Archives).

Lamar coach Ray Woodard and McNeese State coach Matt Viator shake hands after their game last season. (American Press Archives).

Cowboys know Cardinals will keep it on the ground

Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:23 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

A long season finally got a little bearable for Lamar last week when the Cardinals picked up their first conference win, a 34-24 victory over Nicholls State.

“It was very important for our players,” Lamar coach Ray Woodard said. “When you say it after a loss, they may take it that I’m trying to spin something, but this is a very enjoyable group. This is a hard-working group. A very close-knit group. We’ve gotten close but it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard.

“I wanted it for our players. It does put us in a better frame of mind. I think we’ll bounce around all week.”

It’s unclear who will be lining up behind center for the Cardinals.

Starter Ryan Mossakowski was injured against Nicholls. Backup Caleb Berry, who has played in seven games, led the Cardinals on two touchdown drives in the second half.

Berry is more mobile than Mossakowski, so McNeese will potentially have to prepare for two different styles on Saturday.

“The challenge will be if they play Berry and do a lot of designed runs. That’s hard to prepare for,” said Cowboys head coach Matt Viator said. “But they really didn’t change the offense once he got in there. The (rushing) yards were off of scrambles.”

Regardless of who is playing, Lamar hasn’t had tremendous success through the air. The Cardinals are ranked last in the league with an average of 163.7 passing yards per game.

It hasn’t been much better on the ground.

Lamar (4-7, 1-5) is sixth in the conference rushing at an average of 118.2 yards per game. Leading rusher Herschel Sims, who came into the program after getting kicked out of Oklahoma State following an arrest on charges of forgery, decided to leave Lamar on Oct. 30.

The Cardinals have also been turnover prone, ranking seventh in the league with a minus-13 margin.

Lamar is hardly devoid of talent, though, especially in its secondary.

The Cardinals rank second in the Southland behind McNeese in interceptions with 13.

Viator said the Cardinals are unusually tall on defense for a team at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

“I think their length worries me,” Viator said. “Sometimes at our level you’re long and not as fast, or maybe you’re fast but not as long. They’re kind of long and fast. We don’t play many teams like that. Both outside linebackers in their odd-man front are 6-5. They have two 6-3 safeties. We just don’t normally play that kind of length.”

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