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McNeese State head coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

McNeese State head coach Matt Viator. (American Press Archives)

No. 9 Cowboys take step up in competition with fifth-ranked Northern Iowa

Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 9:04 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Sometimes, going off the script isn’t such a bad thing.

Bill Murray’s speech about a Cinderella story winning The Masters in the movie “Caddyshack?”

Made up on the spot.

The most famous line in “Jaws” — “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” — was also unscripted.

McNeese State’s 43-6 win over Weber State on Saturday?

Same deal.

Very little about the Cowboys victory went the way coach Matt Viator envisioned it. He said McNeese’s ability to succeed going “off the script” is what stuck out to him the most.

“We went off the script in the sense that we had as many penalties in one game as we did the first three (combined),” Viator said. “We had as many turnovers as we did in the first three. We got tortured in the field-position game the entire night. Their punter did a good job in that sense. We lost the time-of-possession for the first time.

“So it was certainly off the script of how we won the first three, and how we would like to play in the games coming up.”

Despite pulling through, Viator does not necessarily want his team turning into an improv troupe.

“It’s important sometimes to win in different ways,” he said. “The challenge for us is to get back to work so we can get back on script for some of the things we need to do to be successful.”

There won’t be much margin for mistakes this week.

McNeese (4-0) closes its non-conference slate at No. 5 Northern Iowa (3-0) on Saturday. It’s McNeese’s first game with both teams in the FCS Top 10 since facing Georgia Southern in 2003, as the Cowboys rose to No. 9 in this week’s rankings.

“I think everybody in the building understands the tremendous challenge we have,” Viator said. “But at the same time, I think everybody in the building couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity we have in front of us.”

Staying ahead of the chains might be the most important page of the script for the Cowboys to get back to this week. The offense was moved backwards by eight false starts against Weber State.

Viator said the penalties were the result of confusion created by the Wildcats linebackers.

“Not to make excuses, but they were doing things we didn’t handle well,” Viator said. “When we’d make the ‘Mike’ ID call, they’d start hollering similar words to what we use. It’s something we don’t do defensively. People are hollering and moving, that’s just part of it. But we definitely have to improve that.”

Viator described the tactic as unusual. But even if the Panthers don’t replicate it, McNeese’s offensive line does have to be vigilant against what promises to be a noisy crowd at the 16,324-seat UNI-Dome.

“We worked silent (snap) counts against South Florida,” Viator said. “As it turns out, the crowd didn’t get into it as much as we anticipated. But we’re going to get back into that this week.”

• NOTES: Viator said wide receiver Wes Briscoe was scheduled for an MRI Monday following his leg injury on Saturday. Linebacker Deonte Thompson, wide receiver Deajon Mitchell and running back Javaris Murray are all expected back in the lineup this week. It will be the first game for Murray, a senior who also returns kickoffs. . .After notching his first career interception that was returned 69 yards for a touchdown, McNeese sophomore Wallace Scott was named this week’s Louisiana Sports Writers Association Defensive Player of the Week, voted on by state sports writers and media members.

Scotts’s award makes if four weeks in a row a McNeese player has been recognized as a player of the week by either the Southland Conference or the LSWA.

He finished with six total tackles, four solos, a quarterback hit and the interception. His pick happened at the 2:55 mark of the first quarter with the Cowboys trailing 6-0. The score started a string of 43 consecutive points scored by McNeese as the team improved to 4-0 on the season.

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