Cowboys moving on, starting with high-scoring Lions

Published 10:00 am Saturday, October 2, 2021

For the second time in seven months McNeese State is stuck in a hole.

The Cowboys have followed last spring’s 1-3 start with the same record this fall. After another thumping at the hands of Incarnate Word, the Cowboys return home today to face Southland Conference-favorite Southeastern Louisiana and its all-American quarterback Cole Kelley.

“We try to put a game like that behind us,” Cowboys defensive end Isaiah Chambers said of last week’s 31-0 loss at IUW. “At times it’s hard to fall asleep when you get whooped like that. But we have to move on.”

Moving on is all they can do. And they are happy to be back home after playing three consecutive road games.

“It will be great to get back in front of our fans,” said quarterback Cody Orgeron. “We need their support and look forward to being back in The Hole.”

But the Lions (2-1), ranked 15th and 16th in national polls, won’t be easy. They average a conference-best 49 points a game, led by Kelley, the Walter Payton Award winner as best player in Football Championship Subdivision last season.

“Southeastern is a very good team with a lot of talented players,” said McNeese head coach Frank Wilson. “We are going to have to play well to beat them.”

Kelley leads the league in passing yards per game at 400.7. He has 10 touchdowns and has thrown three interceptions. Kelley has connected with 15 receivers with Austin Mitchell (19 catches, 240 yds., 3 TDs) and Turner (16-302, 3 TDs) leading the way.

“(Kelley) has a big arm and loves to sling it,” Chambers said. “We have to get after him.”

Chambers said he hopes that he and his mates can get some shots on him. Kelley is not as big a threat to run as last week’s foe, Cam Ward.

“I like the less mobile quarterback,” Chambers said.

Making Kelley uncomfortable is the key, the Cowboys say.

“We have to put pressure on him,” linebacker Darius Daniels said. “We have to make him make quick decisions and not give his receivers time to make big plays.”

It will be hard to rattle the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Kelley.

“He is a big guy, hard to bring down,” Daniels said. “We just have to keep hitting him.”

What McNeese needs to do is not fall far behind. Slow starts have become a staple of the offense.

“We have to come out and execute,” said receiver Josh Matthews. “We need to get a fast tempo and put the defense on its heels. There has to be a sense of urgency from the start.”

McNeese has been outscored 76-23 in the first half of games.

“Our plan is to take some shots early, try to make some big plays and get things going,” Wilson said. “We want to be aggressive.”

That will mean Orgeron will have to make plays. He and the offense have struggled to keep drives going since the season opener behind a banged up offensive line.

“We want to get in comfortable positions and get us into some rhythm,” Orgeron said. “We have to make plays on third down and hang on to the ball.”

McNeese had a chance to beat SLU in Hammond in the spring, losing 25-20 when its final drive fell short as Orgeron fumbled at the Lions’ 4-yard line.

“We know we can play with them we just have to finish,” Orgeron said.