Last Modified: Friday, September 06, 2013 7:34 PM
After punching above its weight class in a season-opening stunner at South Florida, McNeese State returns to FCS competition in tonight’s home debut against defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Because the game is televised by CSN-Houston, there will be a later-than-usual 7:37 p.m. kickoff.
The No. 18 Cowboys (1-0) are trying to treat this week like business as usual after their 53-21 win at South Florida that set records for points and margin of victory by an Football Championship Subdivision team against a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifier.
“Any opponent that has a championship pedigree really gets my respect and attention,” McNeese head coach Matt Viator said of UAPB. “They didn’t do well last week. Arkansas State has a lot of speed and got up on them early and took them out of what they do. But I’ve had the opportunity to (scout) them all summer and been very impressed.”
The Golden Lions (0-1) are trying to get back on track after a 62-11 blowout at Arkansas State. UAPB played with a hand tied behind its back in that game as 11 players had to sit out due to “certification issues.”
Coach Monte Coleman said the problem has been resolved and several of those players will suit up this week.
No matter who else takes the field for the Golden Lions, quarterback Ben Anderson is one to watch. Anderson threw for 2,346 yards and rushed for 524 yards last season.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” Coleman said. “We run a very complicated offense. All we ask Ben to do is manage the game. He’s been able to do that so far for us, and did that last year. That’s all we ask him to do. We’ve got some great running backs and receivers. Combined with his knowledge and maturity it gives us a chance.”
McNeese cornerback Guy Morgan said mobile quarterbacks always test the secondary’s discipline.
“It’s a big challenge, but when they’re scrambling we’re taught to just lock on,” Morgan said. “Try to stay with that guy no matter where he goes. But we have the linebackers and DBs to stay with those guys.”
Anderson’s favorite target last week was Alexandria native Dezmond Beverly, who made six catches for 113 yards.
“He and Ben came in together. They’re very familiar with each other,” Coleman said. “Ben has a great target of receivers he can throw to. This last game it was Beverly’s chance.”
The added depth this week figures to help UAPB’s defense, which was the more shorthanded unit. The Golden Lions were gashed for 509 rushing yards by Arkansas State.
Even with their blowout win, the Cowboys said they can get better this week.
“I still think we need better rhythm on offense,” Viator said. “I will say the no-huddle helped us tremendously, and we will continue to use it.”
• NOTES: McNeese has won its last eight season openers. The Cowboys are 9-0 against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents, with the last game coming against Texas Southern in Natchitoches following Hurricane Rita. Grambling State was the last SWAC school to visit Cowboy Stadium, in 2002.