Jim Gazzolo column: At this point, any win will do

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Gary Goff left O’Brien Field Saturday evening deflated but claiming he was far from defeated.

By the time Goff and his Cowboys had reached the plane for the trip home from Charleston, Illinois, the social media sharks had already begun to circle.

Smelling blood in the water, some McNeese State football fans are ready to jump ship on Goff and his staff 15 games into their reign. Of course, 11 of those have been losses, which is the fuel for the fire.

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Disappointed in blowing a 21-point lead, Goff said the season is far from over. He isn’t wrong but that won’t silence those crying for change.

To them the glass isn’t half full, it’s more than half empty and still leaking.

Goff said he understands there are a lot of eyes watching and dollars invested — Goff signed a three-year deal with two rollover years valued at $1 million in December of 2021 — and he isn’t hiding from the situation his team finds itself.

“It’s where we’re at, it is, we’ve got to fight through this,” he said. “We’ve got to hit the reset button because now we’re in conference play; there’s still a lot of football left and there’s a lot of fight in us.”

He is, of course, correct. McNeese opens Southland Conference play this week at home against also winless Nicholls State. It is a league that appears fairly open right now. Only Incarnate Word has a winning record.

The rest of the conference is a fairly gruesome-looking group in the early going. That gives Cowboys fans hope, but it should be noted the Cowboys look just as gruesome as all the rest at this point.

So we are left to wonder what to expect come Saturday night with two winless teams on the field.

Fans don’t like to hear excuses, but one fan’s excuse is another’s explanation. In the end, none of that matters.

McNeese is a football team desperate for a victory, desperate to give its fan base a reason to believe, and desperate to show growth by way of a win.

McNeese is facing a fourth consecutive losing season, something that hasn’t happened since the 1967-1970 seasons, after enjoying 15 consecutive winning seasons and only two losing seasons from 1991-2019.

None of this was supposed to happen this year, not after the last three, and certainly not after all the hype.

And definitely not here.

It has been 69 years since the Cowboys last started 0-4. That is an accomplishment nobody saw coming. Regression is not an option.

Goff says he isn’t worried about history but rather the future. He took 20 freshmen with him on the last road trip, giving more than a few of them playing time.

He also claims he has done this before, turning around a program when he was at Tiffin. While that is true, it was also in a different era of college football, when building from the ground up was the way to go.

Now we live in a world of quick fixes, where fans expect instant change and gratification. Entitlement is a part of their life as well.

There were some good signs last weekend, as the offense had a big first half and we saw signs of what could be the future. But in the end, the results were just the same: A loss is a loss.

As those losses mount so too will the outside noise.

That likely grew when Goff announced three players had been kicked off the roster last week. It was part of the coach trying to adjust the attitude of a program that went off the rails long before he got here.

Cleaning up another’s mess is never easy.

“We will be a team,” Goff said. “We’ve got to learn how to play football together and it’s not easy when we’ve got such a young roster.”

Now we will see how quickly the young guys can grow up. They have brought energy and excitement to the Cowboys, but what they really need to help bring is victories.

Only wins will quiet the noise.

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