Jim Gazzolo column: Expect growing pains

Published 3:50 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Cowboys remain a work in progress.

This is not what McNeese State fans want to hear, but it is the truth.

And the work will continue throughout the season, more of what the faithful don’t want to hear.

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That doesn’t mean they won’t win or can’t win, just the growing process takes time.

What McNeese fans were hoping for, or believing in, was a local version of what is taking place right now in Colorado. A quick fix and return to the glory days of championships and playoffs.

Instead, two weeks into the new season the Cowboys remain a mystery. Hope is their future will be much brighter, but the worry is the recent past will be revisited.

In reality, a slow start can be explained in the simple terms of 57 new players on the roster. It takes time to build chemistry as everybody finds their way. That might explain the losses to Tarleton State and Florida, but it doesn’t always sit well with impatient fans.

We live in a world of now, not the future.

Well, starting now we are going to begin to find out just how far the Cowboys have come and, more importantly, perhaps how far they have to go.

McNeese plays its next two games on the road against opponents from last season. It starts with a trip to Alcorn State on Saturday and then to Eastern Illinois the following weekend.

Those are two fellow Football Championship Subdivision football programs on basically the same level as the Cowboys. They should be good measuring sticks.

McNeese has a 4-1 record all-time against Alcorn, losing for the first time last season. The Cowboys have never lost to EIU in three tries, including winning a year ago in Lake Charles.

If McNeese is on the right track, and has made progress from a year ago, these two games should show that. They are winnable but not pushovers.

So this is where the season really gets started, or restarted if you prefer.

Truth is, if there is going to be any real type of growth from this season, as is expected, it should be seen starting this week. Last season Alcorn was physically able to knock the Cowboys around.

Florida doing this last weekend is no surprise, but the Braves can’t be allowed to do this two years in a row.

It is also important that the Cowboys start gaining momentum heading forward. After Eastern Illinois, the Southland Conference opens play and that’s when this team needs to start making its mark.

Even more important for McNeese fans is to see this team start to become what it is supposed to be, much more exciting.

In two seasons under Gary Goff the Air Raid offense he promised to bring to McNeese has yet to be unleashed. That seems to be the next step. It is really what the fans have been waiting for.

Ultimately, this season will be measured on progress and just how far the Cowboys can climb up the SLC ladder.

Until then we will have to see what the next two games bring and just where this team stands.

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