No laughing matter, Cowboys open SLC against defending champs

Published 4:21 pm Saturday, October 1, 2022

There was a time not long ago when Incarnate Word was nothing more than a joke to Cowboys fans.

Nobody at McNeese State is laughing now.

UIW has become an offensive juggernaut in recent years and has proven as much against the Cowboys.

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The teams meet again tonight in San Antonio as the Cowboys open their Southland Conference schedule at Benson Stadium.

“This is a great opportunity for our team to play a very good football team,” said McNeese head coach Gary Goff. “They are a high-powered offense but also have a very good defense.”

McNeese is coming off its first win of the season over Division II Mississippi College, 32-17, last week.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (3-1, 0-1 SLC) suffered their first loss, a heartbreaker to Southeastern Louisiana on the game’s final play, 41-35.

The defending SLC champs can’t lose again if they hope to repeat as league champions. McNeese is looking to take another step in its rebuilding process.

“I say the same thing every week — it is not about who we are playing but it is about us,” Goff said. “This week is no different.”

Well, it is a little as UIW is ranked 11th in the most recent Football Championship Subdivision poll and has used McNeese as a measuring stick over the last few years, winning three of the last five meetings.

However, McNeese won the last time the teams played, a 28-20 upset in Lake Charles last October, which was the Cardinals’ lone conference loss.

But this is a different Cardinals team, led by transfer quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. The onetime LSU prospect is second in the country in both total offense (376.6) and passing yards (357.8) per game.

He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and ran for two more for the third-highest FCS scoring team in the nation at 46.2 points a game.

“We have to do our thing and slow the down,” said McNeese linebacker Kordell Williams, who leads the conference in tackles and is third in the nation at 11.8 a game. “We have to do our jobs and make sure we tackle them.”

Slowing down the receiving duo of Darion Chafin (20 catches, 428 yards, 5 TDs), and Taylor Grimes (21-308-3) will be challenge for a Cowboys secondary that has suffered injuries.

“We can’t give up the big plays,” Goff said. “We have to keep everything in front of us.”

And McNeese can’t turn the ball over. The Cowboys have committed 12 turnovers.

“We can’t give them extra possessions and a short field,” Goff said.

The Cowboys will try and balance their offense, but they lead the SLC in rushing at 188.5 yards a game. Deonta McMahon has 406 yards on 35 carries but will likely be without partner D’Angelo Durham who had surgery Sunday on his left leg.

Officially Durham is listed as day to day but isn’t expected to play this week with a bye coming after that.

If the Cowboys are to get their passing game going they will need to keep Chris Whittaker from getting to the quarterback. The UIW defensive tackle leads the conference in sacks at 1.88 a game while McNeese has given up 22, but none last week.

The Cowboys are hoping to have learned from their success against both Incarnate Word at the end of last season and Scott when he was at Nicholls State. When they had success the Cowboys kept the quarterback from running wild and limited their own mistakes.