Cowboys prove they have staying power with win over West Alabama

McNeese State’s first two games were a bit like vintage Mike Tyson fights. A couple of punches in, the opponent was on the mat for the count.

It was a different story on Saturday as the Cowboys were taken to the final bell by West Alabama. Coach Matt Viator believes that the previously unneeded resolve the Cowboys displayed in their last-minute 44-42 win says a lot about his squad.

“This team loves to compete,” Viator said. “We did in the spring, and pretty much every day throughout August camp. At times we didn’t play as good as we wanted to the other night, but the effort was there. The competitive spirit is very good on this team.

All the coaches know there’s nothing like having a team that has that great competitive spirit about them.”

Viator said that spirit carried over to the meeting room for film review on Sunday, with the team eager to figure out how to clean up a performance that yielded 565 yards to the Tigers, the most since Texas State picked up 580 against the Cowboys in 2008.

“There’s no question they were (eager). We had a great meeting (Sunday),” Viator said. “I felt we played extremely hard. We felt we all need to coach and play better, and we can. It’s a game where you want to pat them on the back for finding a way to win. But there’s the big picture, and we certainly have to play and coach a little better than we did. And that’s not taking anything away from West Alabama. We can just do better than we did.”

McNeese’s upcoming opponent, Weber State, will likely try to recreate scenes from Saturday’s high-scoring affair. The Wildcats (1-2) won their season opener 50-40 over Stephen F. Austin before surrendering 70 points in consecutive defeats to in-state FBS foes Utah and Utah State.

If this one goes high-octane, Viator says his Cowboys are more than ready.

“We probably should have been more patient with the run game than what we were. But games just kind of play out,” Viator said. “It was just the way it unfolded. There were some things in the passing game we thought we could do.

“It just kind of happened with the back-and-forth style. If that’s how it unfolds this week, that’s how it unfolds.”

The Cowboys beat the Wildcats 35-21 in Ogden, Utah last season.

McNeese hopes to get the services of linebacker Hayden Dobbs for the first half.

By rule, Dobbs was ejected from the West Alabama game when he was flagged for targeting an opposing player in the head. Since the foul occurred in the second half, Dobbs would have to sit out the opening half of this week’s game as a suspension.

But video of the hit indicates that may not end up happening. McNeese appealed the ruling to the Southland Conference office, and Viator said SLC coordinator of officials Byron Boston agreed with McNeese’s appeal before passing it along to the NCAA, which will have the final call.

“I don’t want to be premature with it, but I’ll state the facts... The commissioner (Tom Burnett) and Mr. Boston both agree with us,” Viator said. “Now it has to go to the NCAA itself. We didn’t necessarily think it was in the spirit of the targeting rule.”

Dobbs’ ejection left the Cowboys without two of their top four linebackers, as Deonte Thompson was already out with a concussion.

Viator said he expected to hear the NCAA’s ruling by the time the Cowboys return to practice today.