Cowboys get back to business following bye week

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

McNeese

State is back to business after its first-round playoff bye, and hoping

the extra week of preparation is the secret

ingredient that can lead the Cowboys to their first postseason win

in 11 years when Jacksonville State comes to town Saturday

night.

The sixth-seeded Cowboys (10-2) spent

half of last week away from football, allowing players and coaches to be

with their

families for Thanksgiving. Before that, the team held what

amounted to a mini-training camp while waiting to see which team

they’d be preparing for this week.

“Once the season gets in, the first

thing that starts to go is your fundamentals a little bit because you’re

more prone to

game-planning. So we went back to that,” said McNeese coach Matt

Viator. “Worked on timing with the backs and receivers. Coach

(Lance) Guidry must have done backpedals with the defense for 30

minutes in one practice.

“We cut up every play we ran this year on video and I called it the good, the bad and the ugly. We went back and corrected

some stuff. It’s almost like an offseason deal that you can do.”

That schooling will be particularly useful in the secondary with all-conference cornerback Guy Morgan officially done for

the year after undergoing knee surgery.

Junior buck safety Aaron Sam will start at corner, where he played the last two seasons.

Sophomore Brent Spikes, who has filled in for Sam at times this year — most notably at Central Arkansas when Sam had to sit

out the first half because of a targeting penalty the previous game — will start in Sam’s typical spot.

“If you take our secondary, the guy (off the bench) with the most playing experience is Brent Spikes,” Viator said. “He actually

was starting buck safety all the way through spring toward the end of game when Coach (Guidry) decided to move Aaron.”

Against the Gamecocks (10-3), the McNeese defense figures to be challenged more on the front end than the back end. Jacksonville

State has 697 more total rushing yards than passing yards in its last four games.

Junior running back DaMarcus James is a

5-10, 220-pound bowling ball-shaped human who is second in the country

with 25 touchdowns

this year.

“We were trying to think of a comparison, and we came up with (Tyrell) Fenroy when we played UL-Lafayette in 2007,” Viator

said. “They’re very, very similar in the way they move and their build. But you don’t see many guys like that.”

Quarterback Eli Jenkins, who is

technically filling in for injured starter Max Shortell, added 115

rushing yards to go along

with James’ 124 in the Gamecocks’ 55-14 romp over Samford in the

first round. He also completed 11 of 19 throws for 115 passing

yards.