McNeese Cowboys: August starts with promises

Published 3:33 pm Sunday, August 29, 2021

Like all new football seasons, the one facing McNeese State next week is full of expectations and questions.

As the Cowboys enter the first fall campaign under Frank Wilson, McNeese hasn’t make the postseason since 2015, the longest drought in 30 years. The playoff victory drought is dates to 2002.

McNeese will once again play all home games at noon, another hangover from hurricanes Laura and Delta.

With those facts, we opened up to McNeese fan’s questions in hopes of answering them one week before kickoff.

Q: Will this be McNeese’s last season in the Southland Conference?

A: Right to the heart of the matter.

In today’s world of college football there is no yes and no here. Let’s just say it is likely that the Cowboys brass are at least window shopping if not getting out their credit cards.

McNeese can’t survive in the current Southland much longer, having watched other schools race by. So if I were a betting man I would say their days in the league are numbered, I just can’t put a number on that yet.

Q: Who will replace receiver Trevor Begue as a go-to receiver?

A: Begue hit the NCAA transfer portal and ended up at Incarnate Word in San Antonio. He was quarterback Cody Orgeron’s security blanket the past few seasons and fan favorite.

Now there are a host of others who can fill that role. CeeJay Power, Walker Wood, Jamal Pettigrew, Mason Pierce and Josh Matthews will be options. This is a team with lots of weapons so the issue might be getting everybody enough touches.

Q: How good is Orgeron?

A: Good enough.

Often he gets stuck with the tag “game manager,” which some interpret as a euphemism for not that good. Orgeron has shown he can be the big-play guy, throwing for 951 yards in the last three games of the spring with seven touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Orgeron is also a guy whose ego isn’t attached to his numbers. If handing the ball off is the best way to win a football game, he is happy to do it. He has said he wants his legacy to be that of a championship QB at McNeese. So good enough isn’t bad.

Q: Is Isaiah Chambers the best defensive player in the country?

A: Hard to judge at the Football Championship Subdivision level, but it’s also hard to think of any much better. Chambers, a defensive end who led the nation in sacks last spring at 7.5 in seven games, is a disruptive force.

He can change an offense and force to double-team him, opening lanes for others. He’s not alone on the line as Mason Kinsey has emerged as a force on the other end.

But it is not a far reach to think Chambers is a favorite to win the Buck Buchanan Award as the top FCS defender at year’s end.

Q: Who is the top running back?

A: There is a stable of runners who will contribute, but the lead horse should be Stephon Huderson. The Tulane graduate transfer has looked sharp in camp and can do a lot of things for the Cowboys.

He can run inside, outside, catch the ball from the backfield and make game-breaking plays while also picking up tough yards. He is likely the most important transfer added, and he wants the football.

Q: Will this team make the playoffs?

A: This is a tricky one. If McNeese can come together and stay healthy, it looks like a playoff team and a contender for the six-team conference crown. But this is a fairly balanced league on paper so there is no definite.

How a watered-down Southland is viewed by the playoff committee is something McNeese players and coaches can’t control. With only six teams left, getting two playoff berths in the 24-team field is not guaranteed.

So we leave you with the ultimate question at the end of all this.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press.