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

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

Injury plagued Cowboys at crossroads this weekend

Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 10:27 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

McNeese State’s football season comes to a crossroads this weekend.

With a win against Northwestern State, the Cowboys (3-1, 0-1 Southland) can set themselves back on the path toward competing for a conference title despite losing the league opener, 25-24, to Southeastern Louisiana last week.

“We knew there was going to be some kind of letdown, I guess you could say, during the season. A little bit of a struggle,” said Cowboys quarterback Cody Stroud. “We’ve got to find a way to get out of it. We can’t have a second half, offensively or defensively, like we did this past Saturday.”

With a loss to the Demons, McNeese would be 0-2 in the Southland and in extremely dire straits with Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State remaining on the schedule.

Head coach Matt Viator said he isn’t focusing on the big picture right now.

“We have to do the very best we can in practice this week and do the best we can on Saturday night,” Viator said. “Certainly nobody wants to go 0-2. But we’re more concerned with how we practice this week and how we prepare.”

In order to get things right against the Demons, McNeese needs to clean up what went wrong against the Lions, which is a much lengthier list than Viator would like.

He said SLU flipped the script on McNeese by holding the ball most of the second half.

“Southeastern controlled the second half,” Viator said. “We only had 20 plays on offense, which is the offense’s fault.”

While the Cowboys offense couldn’t stay on the field in the second half, the defense couldn’t get off it. McNeese forced SLU into multiple third-and-long situations in the second half but inexplicably was unable to stop the Lions at that point.

The Lions punted once in the second half.

“There were only two plays where we were out of position on defense, the fake punt and the touchdown on fourth down,” Viator said. “It was a play we hadn’t seen them run before. They just made good plays.”

McNeese linebacker Hayden Dobbs called it one of the most frustrating things he has experienced on a football field. SLU was 5-for-9 on third down and 3-for-3 on fourth down in the second half.

“There were penalties, some blown stuff on third down that kept us on the field. It really was frustrating,” Dobbs said. “Things didn’t go our way.”

One of this week’s unanswered questions is, Whom Dobbs will be playing with on the defensive side of the ball?

Safety Ryan Bronson, who replaced his injured brother Malcolm in the starting lineup, was walking around with a cast over his right hand on Tuesday but said he will play this week.

Cornerback Guy Morgan and safeties Wallace Scott and Ford Smesny were also injured against SLU. Livingston Hamilton, another reserve defensive back, is out for the year after getting hurt at Weber State two weeks ago.

McNeese has taken a redshirt off freshman Brent Spikes, who made five tackles in his collegiate debut against SLU.

Viator did not delve in specifics, but said the injury situation will force him to put another true freshman on the active roster this week.

“I don’t want to give the opponents any more notes in preparation than they need,” Viator said. “We did lose some more guys last week. We’ll take off at least one more (redshirt) this week — at least. We’ll have to look at that. We’ll learn a lot more (Tuesday night).”

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