Jim Gazzolo column: Heat can’t sap energy of new era

Published 10:00 am Thursday, August 4, 2022

Watching the Cowboys practice for the first time under new leadership was a welcome sight.

For a moment there was no concern about the past six seasons without a playoff appearance. You even can find yourself forgetting all that this program has been through since its 2015 home playoff loss to Sam Houston State.

That’s when the Cowboys were within a yard of the lead late in the fourth quarter on first down only to never make an inch let alone the needed 3 feet.

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None of the current 110 players were here for that night when the offense went so far backward the Cowboys were forced to punt and never got the ball back.

Since that forgettable series, Sam Houston has won a national championship, moved out of the Southland Conference and is on its way to Conference USA and the ATM machine that is the Football Bowl Subdivision.

In contrast, McNeese State’s program has spiraled into the land of mediocrity, falling to a low of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the last century.

It has been sent to the NCAA principal’s office for academic issues, been hit by a pair of hurricanes, a record flood, a historic freeze and ripped through three coaching staffs.

And we haven’t even mentioned the worldwide coronavirus pandemic that hit everybody.

I don’t believe in curses but …

Those missing 3 feet didn’t lead to all the problems, however they sure would have been a nice memory to fall back on had the Cowboys gotten them.

But Wednesday, as the Gary Goff-led Cowboys ran around the practice field for the first time, maybe we could forget those woes for at least one morning.

“It just feels different,” linebacker Brayden Adams said.

It sure looked different.

There was actually teaching going on at practice. There was energy, talk and even players holding one another accountable. Even Goff joined his players for exercise.

For one morning, at least, it looked like a football program moving toward those 3 needed feet, not one running backward.

This is not to say the Cowboys are back. Nor is it to suggest the playoffs are right around the corner either. We didn’t get to that point in one day, one year or even one coaching staff.

It took time to get dig this deep into the hole the program finds itself, and it will take time to crawl back out of it. That’s rebuilding.

But at least the Cowboys appeared to be looking up from that hole and not down deeper in it.

Yes, for two hours all was good.

Then, as you left the practice area and looked over toward Cowboy Stadium, you saw there was still no press box, a reminder that there is still work to be done.

But hey, at least you had to look up to see what was still missing. That beats looking down for those lost 3 feet that we are never getting back.

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