McNeese getting ready for an even tougher test this weekend

Published 3:25 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

After hitting a rock the Cowboys are ready to move into a hard place.

McNeese State began to pick up the pieces of a surprisingly poor opener Monday while getting ready for an even tougher test this weekend.

Coming off their 52-34 home loss to Tarleton State, head coach Gary Goff  said his Pokes are going to learn from a tough lesson as they prepare for this week’s showdown against Florida.

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For the first time in program history, McNeese will play in “The Swap” this Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

“It was a little shocking,” said Goff of the loss. “That was not how we had practiced.”

After watching the film, Goff said there were chances for the Cowboys to make plays but never did.

“The plays were there and we didn’t execute them,” said Goff. “They made big plays and we didn’t. We had too many mistakes from all three aspects of the game.”

Now comes the tough part, McNeese will have to try and get better against a much better opponent. The Gators are also licking their wounds after losing their opener at Utah.

However, the SEC team’s problems are not Goff’s. He has his own to worry about.

“We have to worry about the Cowboys,” said Goff. “We have to learn how to play as a team. We will grow from this.”

Twelve of the 22 Cowboys were first-time starters for McNeese, but the head coach has stated there are “no excuses”.

“We have to get better and I think we will be better,” Goff said. “I think we are going to still be a good football team.”

The Pokes have a lot of cleaning up to do to get there. They allowed far too many big plays and didn’t create nearly enough.

Tarleton finished with six plays for 20 yards or more while McNeese had just one that went for exactly 20 and that came in the game’s final five minutes when the outcome had been decided.

Then there was a lack of urgency the Cowboys came out with.

“We did not play great from the start,” Goff said. “I didn’t like a lot of the effort for all four quarters. We were not locked in.”

The head coach didn’t call out any specific players or group, saying improvement was needed across the board. He did say he’s still confident in new quarterback Nate Glantz.

The transfer from Iowa State had a very slow start, missing his first four passes, one when the receiver was wide open on the Cowboys’ first offensive play. That could have led to a big gain if not a touchdown.

Glantz finished 15-of-35 for 166 yards. He also ran 18 times and gained 82 yards, scoring a pair of touchdowns.

However, he was sacked six times which limited his rush total to just 34.

“I’ve got full confidence in Nate,” said Goff. “Nate will be a great player. I really think he is going to be a star of a quarterback.

“We have to get Nate to relax and try not to do too much. He has to take what the defense is giving him.”

Despite all the issues the Cowboys had a 24-17 lead and the ball midway through the third quarter. A scoring drive could have flipped the script. Instead, they went three-and-out.

Tarleton followed by scoring 35 points over the next 16 minutes to put the game away.

McNeese did earn one honor from the game. Cam Thomas returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first time Thomas touched the ball as a Cowboy.

For that play, Thomas was named the Southland Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

Thomas is a junior transfer running back out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The TD return was the first by the Cowboys since 2021 and the 14th kickoff return for a score in school history