Jim Gazzolo column: Cowboys can still achieve goals

Published 8:09 pm Thursday, October 14, 2021

It is far from the start it wanted, but it is also far from over.

For McNeese State there is a lot to play for as it enters the second half of the college football season.

Talk of playing for pride, overcoming adversity and other catch phrases are nice, but it is more personal than that for the Cowboys. They have a promise to complete.

At 1-4 the Cowboys have not met their own expectations. They have faltered at key moments which has led to a bevy of frustrated fans, coaches and players alike.

But you can put away those grim reaper costumes for Halloween. This season has plenty of life left in it and plenty of opportunities.

And that little promise they made.

Now it’s up to the players and coaches to show what they are made of. McNeese has six games remaining, three at home and three on the road, to complete the promise of the preseason.

This season was really never about winning a championship. Sure, that would have been a great comeback story, one that folks around these parts would talk about for years. It would be one of the all-time feel good tales.

But the odds were always stacked against this group from the start. And few outside the football program bubble know just how far the Cowboys have fallen on the inside.

Do the Cowboys have issues? You bet. They rear their ugly heads at the worst of times. If you like, the glass is half empty.

Some believe the way the team has rallied and doesn’t quit means the glass is half full.

If this were a tailgate question I would consider the glass have drunk. We got a taste of what could be, but we are also left wanting more.

For the record McNeese is 0-2 in the six-football team Southland Conference but has games against both teams that have beaten them, a product of the strange season. That means they have a chance to split with both Incarnate Word and Southeastern Louisiana.

“If we run the table …” head coach Frank Wilson said.

If I were 30 years younger and 30 pounds lighter … Well, I’d still be older and fatter than I would like, so that’s not a good example.

What we can do is be realistic.

McNeese was picked for fourth in the SLC. It still has a chance to finish better than that. Yes, it could finish worse. Ah, that glass again.

Let’s look closely into the record. Heading into this weekend the three non-Football Bowl Subdivision foes who have beaten McNeese are a combined 13-2. The other is LSU. Looking at those games, only Incarnate Word really embarrassed the Cowboys. The other non-LSU loses were close. In fact, if McNeese made its kicks, you never know.

I had hoped not to go there but the kicking game has been, well, Wilson said it best: “It’s been awful.”

I would say that’s a kick in the teeth but it would probably be wide right.

West Florida is unbeaten and looks by far to be the favorite to once again win a Division II national title. UIW and Southeastern were the SLC’s preseason favorites. And then there is LSU, so McNeese maybe was favored in one of those games.

Now, that won’t sit well with fans, but it is reality.

So the Cowboys have a chance to turn their fortunes around, starting this week at Northwestern State. A win over the Demons would begin the process of filling that cup back up.

Of course, there is pride and all that good stuff to play for, not to mention help erasing the stain of having three players on the team arrested and a couple others booted for lack of satisfactory grades.

It would not be fair to give up on the season and start talking rebuild. That would not be fair to the guys who stayed for one more year after all this area has been through. They deserve a chance to finish what they came back for.

For them there is a job to finish and still fulfill their promise.

When those who came back for this year spoke before the fall season began, they wanted to finish what they started and make the two proud.

We all figured that meant a championship and nothing less. But in fact, just by getting back on the field, playing hard and finishing strong would fulfill that promise.

This most likely won’t be the group remembered for a greatest-of-comeback stories, but they can still be the ones who overcame the toughest of 18 months and set the foundation for future McNeese titles.

The Cowboys can do that by playing hard until the final whistle.

Not all victories are won on the scoreboard, but they also need a few of those to make this right.

So there is a lot still to play for, as you can see.

And still a promise to fulfill.

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