Jim Gazzolo column: Big hype, bigger fall

Published 12:23 pm Monday, September 6, 2021

The higher the hype the bigger the fall.

A season of great hope and expectations got off to a rocky start Saturday.

McNeese State suffered defeat at the hands of Division II West Florida.

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On the surface that sounds devastating, having a lowerlevel program come into your home and knock you off. But a deeper look shows that the Argonauts are not your average Division II program.

UWF is the defending national champs and currently ranked first in its division. You don’t beat a championship team like that without playing your best.

McNeese clearly didn’t play its best in the 42-36 season-opening loss.

So while the defeat isn’t as bad as it looks, the way it came about was. That is the worrisome takeaway from Game 1.

The Cowboys didn’t play their best by any means. Far too many mistakes came back to haunt them. Some were the same that we saw in the spring, when McNeese stumbled out of the gate but rallied to finish 3-4.

The lessons learned during that season were unfortunately some of the same repeated last Saturday. That is disappointing.

There was a brutal kicking game that missed four kicks in all, three of those extra points. Things got so bad that after scoring a touchdown with 2:44 left, which cut the lead to 42-34, MSU head coach Frank Wilson waved off the kicking team and went for two, making it.

You have to wonder what the confidence level is in the kicking game moving forward.

There was also an offensive line that allowed four sacks and let the Argos put pressure on McNeese QB Cody Orgeron a lot more.

There was a secondary that again gave up big plays as Argo quarterback Austin Reed averaged 20 yards a completion.

Then there were the penalties, all 12 of them for 116 yards. Each of the first four UWF TDs were helped if not directly extended by penalties.

Wilson put it best when he said, “you score 36 points you should win the game.”

Problem is we don’t know how good McNeese is. Is West Florida that good or were the Cowboys that bad?

Are the mistakes, which appear fixable, going to be fixed. You can’t beat good teams when you self-destruct, that is for sure.

McNeese ran 25 more plays, held the ball for almost 13 more minutes and gained more yards. Yet there were far too many mistakes in all parts of the game that made it impossible for the Cowboys to win.

Does one loss end the year, of course not.

Are McNeese’s mistakes fixable, of course.

But with so much expected it was disappointing to see so many mistakes.

And with an angry group of Tigers smarting from their own loss waiting for McNeese next week at LSU, things won’t get any easier.

Yes there is a lot to still play for, but there is also a lot to fix before expectations can be reached.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com