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McNeese State head coach Matt Viator and quarterback Cody Stroud. (American Press)

McNeese State head coach Matt Viator and quarterback Cody Stroud. (American Press)

Cowboys refuse to take struggling Colonels lightly

Last Modified: Friday, November 02, 2012 8:50 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

It’s not exactly Alabama vs. LSU, so it won’t be kicking off at exactly the same time.

This afternoon’s game at Nicholls State is every bit as important for McNeese State as that night game in Baton Rouge if the Cowboys are to stay in postseason contention.

Although the Colonels (1-6, 0-4 Southland) have lost 11 consecutive conference games, the Cowboys (5-3, 2-3) know they aren’t in a position to take anyone lightly.

“Knowing we have to win, it ain’t like we’re 8-0 going into this game knowing we have everything won,” said quarterback Cody Stroud. “We need to win out just to make it happen. So I think that’s our motivation now. But looking on film, they are a very improved team, a lot better than they were last year. But we’re also better than we were last year.”

McNeese will have to deal with a change in routine as much as it deals with Nicholls. The 3 p.m. kickoff will be the earliest of the year for the Cowboys, who until today have played an all-night slate.

“I’ve been talking to our players about how this will be the first day game we’ve played,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “It’s not that big a deal, but you’ve got to be able to understand it. The routine is a little bit different. You eat at different times. Sometimes night games can have a little more festive feel. I actually love day games, but the routine is a little different and we’ve got to get them ready to go.”

Nicholls enters the game from a place all-too-familiar to McNeese — on the heels of a one-point loss. It’s a fate the Cowboys have suffered twice, and one the Colonels became familiar with in a 27-26 loss to Northwestern State.

The point of difference came from a blocked extra point in the first quarter.

“Just one more play and we could have secured a Southland Conference victory,” said Nicholls coach Charlie Stubbs. “We’re putting ourselves in position to win and have those crucial plays at the end be the difference.”

He also recognizes that McNeese can easily say the same thing with two more plays.

“They could be ranked right up there in the FCS rankings,” Stubbs said. “They’re that good.”

Nicholls is primarily a passing team in its third year under Stubbs, but the return of LaQuintin Caston to the lineup last week means McNeese should expect to see plenty of wildcat formations, too.

“We all have to focus on our assignments and being where we have to be,” safety Ryan Bronson said of defending the wildcat. “Just reading our keys and being accountable for where we have to be and what we have to do.”

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