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McNeese Notebook: Cowboys defense has something to prove

Last Modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 9:14 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Suffice it to say, the only thing McNeese State’s defense wishes to repeat from last week’s 44-42 win over West Alabama is the final 35 seconds.

The previous 59:25 saw the Cowboys surrender the most yardage they had in any game since losing to Texas State in 2008.

But the defense did the shoving when push came to shove, sacking Tigers quarterback Kyle Caldwell on back-to-back plays to assure the Tigers’ upset bid would fall short.

Defensive end Everett Ellefsen, who provided a sack along with linebacker Brodie Burkhalter, said McNeese will try to approach this week’s Weber State game with the same attacking attitude as on that drive.

“Without a doubt, we have something to prove,” Ellefsen said. “I’m glad we had last week because we had the opportunity to play all four quarters and it’s important we have that before conference starts. But now that we’ve had that experience, we want our first goose-egg of the season. We want to shut them out.”

Though they were beaten for eight plays of at least 20 yards, the defense still displayed a knack for forcing timely turnovers, forcing a trio with UWA on the move.

Hayden Dobbs recovered an ill-timed pitch by Caldwell at the McNeese 17 as the Tigers were driving towards a potential 28-17 lead in the second quarter.

Cornerback Gabe Hamner picked a good time for his first career interception, snagging a deep Caldwell pass at the McNeese 16 midway through the third quarter.

Bo Brown and Michael Ware combined for another key turnover, with Brown forcing a fumble that was recovered by Ware at the McNeese 29 in the fourth.

“We came through when we had to, but we still didn’t play our best,” Hamner said. “I think the defense really has a chip on their shoulder. We have to step it up and play better.”

• TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: For Ellefsen, the last-minute sack was a hugely important individual accomplishment. But not for the reason one would think.

Ellefsen was under the impression he was beaten off the edge when West Alabama blocked McNeese’s extra-point kick following the go-ahead touchdown with 46 seconds to play.

“It felt really good. I thought the guy off the edge had blocked the PAT and it was on me,” he said. “So if they kicked a field goal, I felt the whole game was on me. I was tired, it was an exhausting game. But I took whatever I had left in me to make a play.”

• APPEAL DENIED: McNeese’s appeal of linebacker Hayden Dobbs’ suspension for the first half of this week’s game against Weber State was denied.

Dobbs was called for targeting the head of UWA running back Markeyus Johnson in the fourth quarter, which results in an automaticejection. Though it was not a helmet-to-helmet blow, the NCAA considered it a correctly applied ruling of an above-the-shoulders hit.

Head coach Matt Viator said he was disappointed McNeese lost the appeal, but understands the NCAA is erring on the side of caution when it comes to application of the new rule.

“It’s disappointing, but we applaud the rule. That’s what it is,” Viator said. “To me, intent goes with the word ‘targeting,’ and there was none of that there. But I’m all for safety, so we’ll deal with it.”

• SHELBY LIKELY TO REDSHIRT: Fans will likely have to wait another year before seeing freshman wide receiver Kent Shelby on the field.

Shelby recently had to retake his ACT exam from December, which had been flagged by the NCAA due to an increase over his previous score. Viator said if there is no word on Shelby’s new score by Monday, the training-camp standout will redshirt this season.

Shelby does not turn 18 until later this season, so Viator said the temporary hurdle might work out well for both team and player in the long run.

“He’s too good a player to only play half a year. I’d rather get four years from him,” Viator said. “He won’t be 18 until the end of November. He’s a good kid; he’s just young. He could mature a little bit.

“I told him and his mother this may end up being a blessing. Rather than competing for time with Wes (Briscoe), with a good offseason he has a chance to be a feature guy for four years.”

• INJURY REPORT: Linebacker Deonte Thompson is questionable after suffering a concussion in the first half of the West Alabama game. … Receivers Wes Briscoe and Deajon Mitchell both practiced this week after leaving the game with injuries, and Viator said their return is probable this week.

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