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McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press)

McNeese State head football coach Matt Viator. (American Press)

Cowboys welcoming bye week with open arms

Last Modified: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 7:23 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

If ever a team welcomed an open week with open arms, it’s McNeese State.

The Cowboys (4-1, 1-1 Southland) have a bye before jumping into the three most important games on their schedule — No. 16 Central Arkansas, at No. 9 Sam Houston State, then homecoming against Stephen F. Austin, which is receiving the third-most votes outside The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Top 25.

Preparing for that trio is tough enough with a full deck of healthy players, much less a banged-up crew. Head coach Matt Viator said he hopes his team can at come as close to healed as one can expect in midseason by the time the Bears visit in two weeks.

“It comes at a great time,” Viator said. “Open week is about getting healthier, which we’re going to try as best as we can.”

Viator said so many players have missed practices the last two weeks that it has affected conditioning in the second half of games against Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State.

“We not only need to get healthy to play, we need to get healthy to practice. Right now that’s our biggest problem,” Viator said. “We haven’t been very good in the fourth quarter of either (conference) game. I think that’s due to we have to get back to practicing and sharpen up things. We need kids back.”

Viator said there will be more emphasis on running than hitting in the next week.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get better until you get healthier,” Viator said. “We’re doing a lot of executing and running and not as much hitting. We’re going to get feeling a little better in conditioning. Hopefully Monday, when we begin preparation for Central Arkansas, we can get back to practicing how we did before the injuries.”

Viator admitted he needs to make things easier for the Cowboys with some pre-halftime adjustments of his own.

McNeese drove inside the 10-yard line in the final minute of the first half against SLU and Northwestern but came away with a short field goal each time. SLU outscored the Cowboys 15-0 in the second half for a 25-24 win, and Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto said a field goal “gave us momentum going in, even though we were down 17-0.”

“We’ve got to make better calls and we’ve got to execute better,” Viator said. “Certainly some of the calls I’ve made haven’t been the right ones. And we had chances to make some plays that we haven’t. I think Marcus Wiltz scores before the half (against Northwestern) if he’s completely healthy. I just don’t see how he doesn’t. He just didn’t have the strength he normally has, but he gutted it out and played.

“We have to finish. It is what it is. We’ve had several chances going in. We’re definitely kicking too many field goals.”

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