Cowboys start slow but keep on winning
Published 7:00 pm Monday, November 4, 2019
It was a three-game stretch against the bottom-dwellers of the Southland Conference that McNeese football had to win in order to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.
For awhile on Saturday, it didn’t look good for McNeese, as they struggled to move the ball against visiting Northwestern State. But the Cowboys forced some turnovers and turned them into points in the second half, eventually pulling away for a 30-20 victory over the Demons on Senior Day at Cowboy Stadium.
While not McNeese’s most complete performance of the season, the Cowboys won similar to how they won early in the season: strong defense when it was needed, and turnovers. Can they beat the better teams in the SLC or — if they get that far — playoff teams if they play how they did on Saturday? Unlikely. But as always, they will happily take the win over the alternative and move on to the next opponent. Since you have an off week (LSU versus Alabama, anyone?), you should start it off by reading the latest version of “The good, the bad, and the ugly” from McNeese’s third-consecutive win.
The biggest sequence of the game: McNeese’s offense, like it had for most of the first half and the start of the third quarter, had struggled. The Cowboys punted the ball back to NSU, with who knows what about to happen. But what did happen inspired a chain of events that won the Cowboys the game. First, cornerback Darion Dunn intercepted a Shelton Eppler pass. Then, quarterback Cody Orgeron found wide receiver Trevor Begue wide open on a post route for a 27-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, the Cowboys forced Demon kick returner Myles Ward to fumble the ball and recovered it inside the NSU red zone. Not long after that, Orgeron found Begue on a slant route for a three-yard touchdown pass. Before you knew it, a 20-9 McNeese deficit turned into a 24-20 Cowboy lead. It was a blitz of momentum that McNeese rode through to the end of the game and NSU could just never recover from.
Forcing turnovers and scoring points: The Cowboys played some solid complimentary football on Saturday, scoring 18 points off of three NSU turnovers. The offense struggled to consistently moved the ball, so getting those turnovers gave them short field to work with, and they took advantage for the most part.
Chris Livings: On Saturday, the Barbe-graduate made the most of his final regular season game inside Cowboy Stadium. Livings finished with three sacks, which was very impressive considering the NSU offensive line came into the game having only allowed 14 sacks in its first eight games. As a whole, McNeese finished with five sacks, a season-high, but Livings seemed to stand out. With two games remaining, Livings is three sacks from tying and 3.5 sacks from breaking the career all-time record in that category.
Second half domination: For the third-straight game, McNeese controlled most of the second half. This is a stark contrast to the start of the season, when the Cowboys consistently allowed teams to come back and either take the lead or make a game of it, even if McNeese won. All things considered, the Cowboys should have done what they did the last three weeks. But it was nice to actually see it play out on the field.
Special teams: Outside of a missed extra point, the special teams did a good job. There was the forced fumble, three short Bailey Raborn field goals, and a decent day from Raborn punting.
The offense’s through 41 game minutes: Woof. The only points in the first half came thanks to a D’Andre Hicks kickoff return for a touchdown and a Bailey Raborn field goal. McNeese’s offense only put up 122 yards on 37 plays (3.29 yards per play) in the first half. The offense seemed to revert back to how it looked early on in the season, with a lot of running into stuffed fronts and short passes. NSU was able to get good pressure on Orgeron early as well. Cowboy offensive players said that NSU did a good job scheming defensively, with one even saying that the Demons knew some of what the Cowboys would do as soon as they made calls on offense. McNeese will have to make sure that is corrected, because Nicholls and its standout defensive lineman Sully Laiche will be coming for heads in two weeks.
Third down offense: They’ve gotten better, but regressed a bit on Saturday, going 5-of-17. Again, it was good enough to beat NSU, but probably won’t be good enough to beat Nicholls.
For the third-straight week, there was nothing ugly. The first half was more boring than anything, but nothing truly ugly. So enjoy it Cowboy fans, and enjoy the week off from McNeese football. Nov. 16 is a make-or-break game for the Cowboys. They can’t guarantee a playoff berth with a win, but they can guarantee not going to the playoffs if they don’t win.
Now, time to turn to the start of basketball season for a week.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at