Jim Gazzolo column: McNeese’s deep wounds exposed

Published 4:11 pm Monday, September 12, 2022

We all knew the McNeese State football program was wounded, we just didn’t know how bad the wound was.

Saturday night in Houston Rice ripped the bandage off and exposed a deep, gaping cut that needs much more care than first believed.

Out muscled, out hustled and outworked, the Cowboys were grossly outplayed by a very vanilla Football Bowl Subdivision team inside Rice Stadium.

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The Pokes limped back to Lake Charles with more questions than answers.

“I’m at a loss for words, I’m speechless,” said McNeese head coach Gary Goff.

He isn’t alone.

The 52-10 beatdown was a mess from start to finish. A fumbled first snap on offense, a 13-yard punt and a 91-yard pick six took any hopes of keeping things close and threw them right under the bus.

It wasn’t so much that the Cowboys looked overmatched but rather out of their element.

“I did not think coming into this game we were big-eyed, but it looked like it was offensively because our best players did not execute at all,” said Goff. “If we had started the game off like we started the third quarter, we had a chance for it to be a 14-10 ballgame.”

Instead it was 31-0 at the break after the Cowboys gift wrapped 24 points to the Owls. After that little else really mattered.

McNeese did some good things. The Pokes gained 239 yards on the ground, but five sacks dropped the net rushing total to 172.

The defense wasn’t all that bad, but was forced on the field for 81 plays once again by getting little help from the offense which went just 1 of 10 on third downs.

And the quarterback play was simply a mess. Knox Kadum and Cam Ransom threw for just 91 yards hitting on just nine of 21 attempts. The two interceptions (one each) killed first-half drives in Rice territory.

“We have to have better quarterback play,” Goff understated.

This is not what was hoped for when the new coach came to town. Hope was for a quick fix but that seems more and more unlikely two weeks into the season.

Truth is, the Cowboys have played eighth quarters of football, four halves to be exact. Half of those have been impressive.

In the two good halves McNeese has shown the ability to play with tough competition, being outscored by a somewhat respectable 38-20.

In the other two they look like a team that will struggle in two weeks at home against Division II Mississippi College, having been outscored 54-7. The difference, six of their seven turnovers have come in those quarters.

So all the hype and hope that surrounded this program just 10 days ago must be replaced with patience and calm. The journey back will be a long one.

“Ultimately, the responsibility lies on my shoulders,” Goff said. “We have to find out how to hold onto the ball, move the chains and put points on the board.”

That is the only way to heal the wounded Cowboys.

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