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Northern Iowa's Jordan Webb, left, forces McNeese State's Javaris Murray to fumble on the opening kick off in the first half Saturday. (Associated Press)

Northern Iowa's Jordan Webb, left, forces McNeese State's Javaris Murray to fumble on the opening kick off in the first half Saturday. (Associated Press)

Cowboys put loss behind them, focus on Bears

Last Modified: Monday, September 30, 2013 10:35 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

For McNeese, last Saturday’s game at Northern Iowa feels a bit like an accident scene.

You pause for a moment to stare at the wreckage, then focus on the task of getting to your own intended destination safely.

For the Cowboys (4-1), who only dipped two spots to No. 11 in The Sports Network Top 25 following their 41-6 loss to now-No. 4 UNI, the process of moving on won’t be too difficult. No. 15 Central Arkansas (2-2) is lying in wait for the Southland Conference opener at Estes Stadium.

Actually beating the Bears, on the other hand, will be no easy task.

“It’s another tough place to play and another long trip,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “They’re coming off of an off-week, so obviously they’re a little better rested than we are.”

McNeese has lost three straight games to UCA, all by four points or less.

“There’s no question (our resilience) will be tested, especially with the quick turnaround,” Viator said. “With any football team, you know how some of them will respond when you lose your first football game, especially when we get beat bad like we did.

“I’m not going to sit here again talking about how we’re playing a lot of young players, but a lot of them have never been through something like this. We’ll see how they respond.”

The Cowboys are 0-3 in their previous trips to Conway, Ark. UCA is the only program in the Southland Conference with a winning record against McNeese in their overall series.

It’s not as if McNeese is the only team troubled by trips to Conway. UCA is 12-0 at home since installing alternating purple-and-gray artificial turf prior to the 2011 season.

“They have not lost a game on their whatever-colored — different-colored — turf,” Viator said. “That’s something they look forward to trying to preserve.”

The Cowboys will again be without starting wide receiver Wes Briscoe, and not just for this week. Viator said the final call will be made next week on whether Briscoe will be able to come back this season, or be shelved for the year after injuring his knee against Weber State.

The bit of good news for McNeese in that regard is that with a 12-game schedule this year, Briscoe played less than one-quarter of the season — meaning he is eligible for a medical redshirt.

“We’ll make a decision next week in regards with what we want to do with him,” Viator said. “Since it happened in the first quarter of the fourth game, he’s in the window of being able to come back next year. So that is something that we are looking at moving forward.”

Outside of Briscoe, Viator said McNeese is heading into conference play in a much better overall health situation than it has the past few seasons.

“Judging by years past at this time, we’re in a lot better shape than we have been,” he said.

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