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(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Cowboys hold on to beat Demons in SLC grudge match

Last Modified: Sunday, September 30, 2012 11:38 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Somehow, it always comes down to this when these two teams get together.

McNeese State continued its dominance of Northwestern State, but as is the norm it was not in a comfortable manner.

The Cowboys didn’t put things away offensively when presented the opportunity but escaped with a 30-22 win over the Demons when Ford Smesny intercepted a Brad Henderson pass at the Cowboy 25-yard line with just over a minute remaining on a rainy Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium.

Smesny missed the second half of last week’s loss to Southeastern Louisiana with an injury.

“We communicated more in the back end,” Smesny said. “We did a good job getting the ball tipped the last play and I just happened to be in the right spot. The coaches did a good job putting us in the right spots all week.”

McNeese (4-1, 1-1 Southland) has won eight straight against the Demons, but six of those have been decided by a touchdown or less.

“These are tough games,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “The kids know each other. Somebody wanted to go here or wanted to go there. They just always seem to be really tough.”

The Cowboys could have increased the scoring gap on this one but couldn’t punch the ball over the goal line on four consecutive trips into the red zone in the middle of the game. Those drives resulted in three Josh Lewis field goals and a Champlain Babin fumble that was recovered by the Demons.

“We just can’t seem to finish it the way we’d like to finish it, but we’ll take a victory any day,” Viator said. “Maybe we wouldn’t have been in this position at the end had we (scored touchdowns), but Northwestern’s good up front. We just came close to scoring some more.”

Perhaps the most frustrating of the chances was a methodical 18-play, 64-yard drive in the third quarter that took 9:23 off the clock but only resulted in a 21-yard Lewis field goal.

Javaris Murray finally brought an end to the string of touchdown-less red-zone trips with an 18-yard run that put McNeese up 30-14 with 9:28 left in the game. The run came two plays after Cowboys defensive tackle Kevin Dorn recovered a Henderson fumble.

However, McNeese couldn’t stick with the good fortune for long.

Northwestern State (2-3, 0-1) pulled back into the game when Henderson found Jovhan Jilbert for a 58-yard touchdown pass where two McNeese defensive backs whiffed on tackle attempts. The long pass finished off an 11-play, 98-yard drive by the Demons.

Big plays were Northwestern’s bread-and-butter in the second half after getting held off the scoreboard by the Cowboys before the break. The Demons opened the half with 60-yard Phillip Harvey kickoff return to the McNeese 34 before he was forced out by kicker Jean Breaux.

Three plays later, the Demons were on the board for the first time when Henderson hit Clifton Brown on an 18-yard pass in the end zone.

The Demons cut the margin down to 20-14 when Henderson and Harvey connected on an impressive 41-yard rainbow in the third quarter.

McNeese scored the next 10 points with a 31-yard Lewis field goal and Murray’s touchdown run.

The Demons drove into McNeese territory on their final drive before Smesny picked off Henderson. It was Henderson’s first interception this season. Henderson finished the game with 287 yards and three touchdowns on 24 of 40 passing.

Cody Stroud was 12 of 25 for 195 yards and two touchdowns — a 17-yarder to Josh Jordan and a 43-yarder to Diontae Spencer.

The Cowboys have a bye next week before playing host to Central Arkansas.

Posted By: Michael On: 9/30/2012

Title: Does your coach pass the stupid test?

Imagine there's a test for folks that want to pursue coaching as a career. Your team has a critical moment to take a commanding lead in a game with a rival. With 26 seconds left in the half you end up with the ball on the opponent's 2 yard line and you have one time out left. Let's make this an easy test, multiple choice. Pick ONE:
1. Throw two passes into the end zone there by stopping the clock on a drop or a score. If neither are successful then call a running play and if you don't score use the time out and kick a field goal on fourth down. You have 3 shots to deliver a knock out blow to your opponent on the last play of the half.
2. Call a running play on first down. While the clock is running try to make a decision on what to do next. Emulate a Les Miles moment because you have a time out left. As time is expiring burn your last time out and kick a field goal because you let time run out. This will excite the crowd while they watch the seconds disappear.
3. Have someone commit a holding penalty to push the ball back for a better field goal angle.
McNeese got answer #2. My son plays Madden Football on Xbox and does better. Silly me- I didn't think this could be topped then I see the next critical situation appear and the coach decided to send 10 players onto the field on a fourth down and had to use a 2nd half time out. But didn't this happen last week? Maybe it was by design just to test the officials, maybe some had been calling in the NFL. It didn't work.
I opened the paper this morning and read what the coach had to say about the game. I cut and paste from above:
“These are tough games,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “The kids know each other. Somebody wanted to go here or wanted to go there. They just always seem to be really tough.”
To my amazement there was a 2nd article asking if this team was good enough. Not much on if the coaching is up to it. McNeese was lucky to have gotten out of this one with a win, I felt the momentum change in the 2nd half in a game that I felt great coaching could've made a big difference.

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