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Texas-San Antonio head coach Larry Coker. (Associated Press)

Texas-San Antonio head coach Larry Coker. (Associated Press)

McNeese travels to face UTSA in nonconference game

Last Modified: Friday, November 09, 2012 6:38 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

It will be a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar scenarios for McNeese State (6-3) when it visits Texas-San Antonio this afternoon.

The Roadrunners (5-4) are one of the familiar elements, with the teams facing each other for the second consecutive season. McNeese beat UTSA 24-21 a year ago in Lake Charles. Game time is set for 4 p.m.

“It’s not like we’re flying somewhere and don’t know anything about the team,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “This is a bus ride and we played them last year. A lot of the players are similar for both teams. It almost has a conference-game feel more than a nonconference WAC team.”

Some things have changed, though. This year UTSA has additional scholarship players and moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, though the Roadrunners are still among the nation’s youngest teams with six seniors in the second-year program.

“What I respect is how they’ve done it,” Viator said. “Whether it’s right or wrong, I think they’ve done it the right way building their program with relatively young players. Then this past year they went out and got a few transfers to fill in some spots.”

The Cowboys will also be facing a familiar defense. The Roadrunners also play the 4-2-5, which quarterback Cody Stroud said will make things easier for him to identify.

“They play a lot like we do,” Stroud said. “It’s good in the fact that you see it every week against your own defense and know what to expect, but bad in the sense they’re going to do it very well. They don’t run a lot of different schemes. They’re going to be good at what they do and we’ve got to attack it.”

Another familiar situation for McNeese is the need to win. For the third consecutive week, a loss would kill whatever hopes the Cowboys have at reaching the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

“As a senior, this might be our last time playing football,” said cornerback Seth Thomas. “We want to make it last. We’re going from game to game, trying to win each one and make our season as long as it can be.”

In order to keep things going, the Cowboys will want to continue their offensive success from their two-game winning streak. McNeese scored touchdowns on 100 percent of its red-zone visits against Stephen F. Austin and Nicholls State.

“We weren’t doing that in some of the games, having to settle for a field goal,” Viator said. “The last two weeks every time we’ve gotten close we’ve finished it with a touchdown. We’ll have to have the same production.”

Perhaps the most unfamiliar element of the game for most McNeese players is playing in a domed environment. The Roadrunners call the 65,000-seat Alamodome their home and draw an average of 27,635 fans per game.

“The atmosphere is outstanding,” said UTSA coach Larry Coker. “I think we’ll see a great turnout. Our support has been great. It will be electric. I’ve been in some great venues, and I think it could be definitely become one of them.”

A handful of McNeese players have played in the Superdome, either as freshmen in 2009 against Tulane or in high school.

One of them is Darius Carey, who said the only major difference from playing outdoors will come on adjusting to the lighting for punt returns.

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