Gazzolo Column: No doubt now, things have changed in Cowboyland

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

What once would have been lost has now been won.

Victory has replaced defeat.

Negative vibes have become positive energy.

And karma, yes that magical word karma, has flipped-flopped to the McNeese sideline.

If ever there was an indication that things have changed in Cowboyland, it was Saturday night.

Down by four in the final moments McNeese rallied to win a thrilling game of back-and-forth with West Alabama, 44-42.

Even a blocked point-after attempt with 45 seconds left, a signal of doom last fall, only seemed to stroke the fire of this group.

Four plays later, the win and a 3-0 start was theirs.

"It is different," said redshirt freshman Brody Buckhalter, who started the final defensive stand with a sack.

"We knew we were going to win. Last year we hoped to win, this year we know we will win."

Because of that change in attitude, what was a season of what ifs a year ago has been turned into what might be.

Twice last year the Cowboys blew games down the stretch, falling by one point. It cost them a spot in the playoffs.

So there was more than a few tense moments when that extra point was blocked. The deja vu that filled Cowboys Stadium was one giant cloud of doom.

But a new day has dawned.

"We learned from last year," said quarterback Cody Stroud. "We all know it. We just have to go out and prove it to everybody else."

The Cowboys are starting to make believers out of even the most fickle of fans.

Even those folks would have to agree that when Diontae Spencer fumbled on the winning drive, luck was shinning on the Cowboys.

The ball bounced right back to Spencer, who battled a defender and made sure the Cowboys would get a shot to win it.

He was rewarded with getting the final touchdown pass thrown to him moments later.

"We knew we just had to make a play," Spencer said. "It didn't matter who it was going to be, we knew it would be somebody on this team. That is the way we are built.

"It doesn't matter who is making the big plays, we are all doing our part."

Those words sing in a coach's ear.

"We seem to have things going our way," said Cowboys head coach Matt Viator.

He did not say that after last year this was a team which had earned getting a few breaks, but he could have.

Instead, you could see the change when the offense took the field after the defense gave up the go-ahead touchdown with 3:59 remaining.

There was no desperation, no panic, just a calm, business-like swagger.

"We knew what we had to do," Stroud said.

That was march 66 yards for the winning score.

"We responded like a champion is supposed to respond," Stroud added.

It sure is different than how they responded a year ago.

And for that, maybe what slipped away last season can be gobbled up and run with this fall.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at