McNeese State (6-4, 3-3 Southland) lost its shot at the postseason with last week’s 31-24 loss at Texas-San Antonio, but that does not make tonight’s season finale against Lamar meaningless.
For seniors, it’s a chance to shine under the Cowboy Stadium lights one final time.
“It feels kind of awkward,” said senior defensive tackle Pat Williams. “It’s just very different. It definitely means a lot. It’s the last home game with all our family and friends supporting us. We definitely want to go out with a bang, especially against Lamar.”
For underclassmen, it’s about winning for the guys who showed them the ropes.
“For the people that’s coming back, we know we have to finish on a strong note giving our seniors a win as they go out the door and show how much they mean to us,” said junior wide receiver Diontae Spencer.
For everyone in blue-and-gold, it’s a chance to continue the subjugation of their upstart rivals from Beaumont. Lamar is 0-2 against the Cowboys since restarting its program in 2010, and has not won in Lake Charles since 1982.
“I got to participate in the (UL-Lafayette) rivalry in 2007, and that was very big for us,” said offensive lineman Miguel Gauthreaux, who is playing his final game after six years in the program. “That was always a big scrum (in the past) between Lamar, McNeese and UL. To be able to experience both of those rivalries, it’s been huge. You see the electric crowds that come out to Cowboy Stadium.”
It is certainly a game of great importance to Matt Viator, who looks to keep the upper hand in bringing in recruits from Southeast Texas.
“It’s important to me,” Viator said. “It changes the living room conversation, I don’t think there’s any question about that. We still think this is a great program. I’m not going to say anything bad about Lamar; I don’t negatively recruit. But like any sport — men’s basketball, women’s basketball — we want to have the upper hand over them when we go into Southeast Texas. That’s fun to have. Not that I’d ever mention it.”
The Cardinals (4-7, 1-5) enter the game coming off their first Southland win this year, a 34-24 defeat of Nicholls State. That win only further stokes Lamar’s competitive fire for a game it sees as the biggest on the schedule.
“We’re very close in proximity,” said Lamar coach Ray Woodard. “We both have a lot of players from the (Golden) Triangle. A lot of them played high school ball with or against each other.
“Personally, that’s my old neighborhood (by Cowboy Stadium), so people are giving me a hard time. It just makes for a great rivalry. It’s been (nearly) three years since we’ve played in Lake Charles and I’m excited about going back there.”