Jim Gazzolo column: Brilliant second half has Cowboys headed in better direction

Published 12:00 pm Monday, September 20, 2021

Thirty minutes of near-perfect football doesn’t completely wash away wash away the sins of the previous 150.

But it is a nice start.

McNeese State played the type of football in the second half Saturday night in Baton Rouge that it is capable of playing. In fact, this is how it is supposed to look.

The defense dominated, starting with the line. Two turnovers led to points. Southern’s running game went no place.

On offense the power running game returned, led by Tulane transfer Stephon Huderson and a line that fired off the ball. Cody Orgeron made the plays and continued his mistake-free game. The senior hasn’t thrown an interception in a school-record 176 attempts.

And the special teams came up with two field goals and a punt blocked. Add that to a field goal and Mason Pierce’s 100-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff and it was a pretty good night there all around for the group.

Still, there are questions to be answered as the Cowboys, now 1-2, head to Incarnate Word to open Southland Conference play. Mainly, why do they look at times like they are lost or asleep?

After Pierce’s return Mc-Neese slept through the rest of the half, only showing life after Orgeron was knocked dizzy and forced out of the game late in the second quarter. That lit a fire under the team, but why did it take so long.

“I don’t know why we were sleep walking,” said head coach Frank Wilson.

At times this team seems to play too nice. Being nice is great, but playing great would be nicer for a football squad.

Wilson said he told the team at halftime: “This was big boy ball. It’s time to fight and no more sugarcoating. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Let’s go fight.”

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One thing about these guys, they do handle adversity.

Maybe it’s all they have been through over the past 13 months or so.

It has not been easy, playing through a pandemic, two hurricanes, ice storm, flood all while in the world of transfer portals and new licensing rules.

It would make anybody’s head spin.

So maybe this group is a little tired of it all, feeling sorry for themselves.

“Nobody cares, nobody cares,” said Wilson. “That’s the truth. We have to go out there and play.”

Maybe now we can put to rest all the talk about what McNeese has been through, about fathers playing sons and who isn’t here anymore.

If nothing else that second half should also put to rest any talk of the Cowboys being victims, about feeling sorry for themselves and all that has gone wrong.

What we saw is those 30 minutes was a football team picking itself up off the turf, both literally and figuratively. We saw a close group coming together to rally around its leader, pushing back when it had been shoved to the ground.

There were no cheap shots, no dirty play, just a resolve that all which had come before was now over and this is what can be the future.

The Cowboys gave their fans hope that the next eight weeks can be fun.

Now they just have to do it from the start of the game and not wait until they are backed into a corner.

If not, the next eight weeks could look more like the season’s first 150 minutes and not the last 30.

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