Jim Gazzolo column: Cardinals strike a nerve

Published 5:45 am Monday, October 3, 2022

So much for turning the other cheek.

Nineteen months ago, Incarnate Word threw for a late touchdown in a blowout victory over McNeese State. It ruffled a few feathers.

Saturday night with new coaches and players on each sideline, the Cardinals did the same thing, throwing for a final touchdown with again under a minute remaining in a 48-20 thumping.

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Consider more feathers ruffled.

Unlike the first time, Saturday the Cards did it with the starters still in.

Sportsmanship and mercy was nothing when trying to move up the Football Championship rankings apparently.

“That’s not the way I would have played it,” said first-year McNeese head coach Gary Goff.

Maybe we are making too much of it. Maybe it’s as simple as the Cardinals not knowing any better.

After all, through their history there have not been a lot of wins, so it could be the program just doesn’t know what the victory formation is having rarely done it in the past.

Incarnate Word is a good football team, ranked 11th in the FCS heading into last weekend and off to a 4-1 start. But figuring out what exactly the Cardinals were trying to prove piling on the rebuilding and overmatched 1-4 Cowboys is hard to do.

Just like in the first instance it reeks of classlessness.

McNeese once beat the Cardinals 55-7 but the Cowboys took their foot off the gas early, not scoring an offensive touchdown over the last 25 minutes.

Lindsey Scott’s seventh touchdown of the night Saturday (four passing, three running) seemed like overkill.

“They want to kick us when we are down I guess,” Goff said. “They better get their licks in while they can. Our day will come.”

It could be that the Cardinals are worried about McNeese getting its program back. UIW, despite being in the national spotlight at the moment, is averaging 2,599 in attendance, and more than half of the crowd at Benson Stadium in San Antonio (2,542) appeared to be McNeese boosters.

“People know McNeese is a sleeping giant,” Goff said. “They want to get us while they can.”

Envy could be a reason, so could the last year when UIW officials thought they were going to partner with McNeese and move to the Western Athletic Conference together.

The Cowboys pulled out early and got numerous conference events for staying in the Southland. When UIW decided to stay after a long delay and making everybody wait, they got basically a healthy welcome back pat on the behind.

Then again McNeese, despite its troubles, is averaging 10,765. So yes, if the Cowboys ever get back to their winning ways, then it could spell problems for the rest of the league.

All this makes for a nice background to what is becoming a rivalry between the two schools. Of course, that is mainly being pushed by UIW which one would think at the moment would have bigger teams to worry about, like beating Southeastern.

Instead, they will leave their mark on the Cowboys, which they have already done on the McNeese head coach.

“I will remember,” said Goff.

After a second dose of disrespect, it is hard to forget.

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