By itself, the Red Beans and Rice Bowl does not do much to inspire.
The trophy awarded to the winner of the McNeese State-Central Arkansas game is a simple cast-iron pot that does not turn heads in the manner of other rivalry prizes, though that may be a good thing when compared to the LSU-Arkansas Golden Boot.
“(The trophy) doesn’t mean a whole lot, honestly,” said quarterback Cody Stroud. “It’s about the win. It’s nice to have that trophy, I guess, but it’s not what we’re looking to have. It’s just a trophy.”
However, this year’s group of McNeese players is hankering to beat the Bears. The senior class has yet to get its hands on the bowl as the Cowboys have lost three consecutive games to UCA, each by less than a touchdown.
“We want to get the Red Beans and Rice Bowl back to Louisiana,” said Cowboys senior safety Terence Cahee. “We haven’t won it in three years. It would be big to go up and get the win.”
• HEBERT RETURNS: Linebackers coach Lark Hebert returned to work on Monday after missing last Saturday’s game at Northern Iowa.
Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill did not elaborate as to the nature of Hebert’s absence or return.
“It’s a personnel issue, and we’re not going to talk personnel,” Hemphill said.
Cowboys head coach Matt Viator also declined comment on the matter for the same reason, other than to say Hebert’s absence was not a distraction or factor in the 41-6 loss to UNI.
• GET THE BALL TO NIC: When a target the size of McNeese tight end Nic Jacobs makes one catch for 10 yards in a game, it’s probably not a good thing for the Cowboys.
Viator said he had to keep Jacobs in pass protection more than he would have liked because of UNI’s 3-4 defensive scheme.
“We have to try and get him more involved, there’s not question,” Viator said. “With the odd-man front and blitzing, we used him in protection more than we would have.”
For Jacobs, there’s plenty of incentive to do well this week — some of his family members will be rooting against his team.
“My uncle’s wife is a UCA alum,” Jacobs said. “So they’re going to be at the game rooting for UCA even though I play at McNeese. It’s kind of emotional for me because most of my family will be there, so that will make it a rivalry game for me. It’s kind of weird. They said, ‘We’ll root for you, but not for your team.’”
• CATCHING TIGER BY THE TAIL: McNeese return man/wide receiver Diontae “Tiger” Spencer has the ability to score from anywhere at any time, but in the past two weeks that has proven to be as much of a curse as a blessing.
Spencer’s miscue on the opening kickoff against Weber State led to McNeese starting the game on its own 4-yard line. Against UNI, the Cowboys were hurt in the field position game when he fair-caught a punt at his own 4.
Viator said Spencer’s football IQ is not the issue, and that the senior is trying too hard to make something happen.
“One thing we’re stressing is ‘Let the game come to you,’” Viator said. “I think he’s really pressing. Sometimes the game dictates you don’t field it. He’s a talented kid and we know he wants to win. It’s not so much a lack of focus as he’s putting too much pressure on himself to make a play. Heck, sometimes you just can’t.”
• SAM SUSPENDED: Defensive back Aaron Sam is suspended for the first half after being ejected for a targeting penalty in the fourth quarter at UNI.
He’s the second Cowboy to be penalized under then NCAA’s new rule this year. Linebacker Hayden Dobbs missed the first half against Weber State.
Sam will be replaced by Brent Spikes in the starting lineup.