McNeese State Cowboys defensive back Colby Richardson (16) goes in for the tackle on Alcorn State Braves running back Niko Duffey (5) during the 1st half of their non-conference game at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Sept.14, 2019. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Execution – or in some cases, a lack thereof – was at the forefront of McNeese's problems on Saturday night, according to head coach Sterlin Gilbert.

Yes, the Cowboys did wrap up non-conference play with a 17-14 win over Alcorn, but from Gilbert's perspective – after reviewing the game film – execution was the main issue.

"Just seeing some things executed the way that we needed to get them done," Gilbert said during his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon. "And areas that we coached them to get it done. And just need more consistency with that throughout the entire football game. These are things we're able to pull, really in all three phases."

In addition to execution, the Cowboys still have to work on cutting down on penalties. Although McNeese committed eight penalties – its fewest in a game so far this season – they racked up 84 penalty yards. One penalty was a holding that wiped a potential Cyron Sutton punt return for a touchdown off the board. And on both of Alcorn's late touchdown drives, McNeese committed personal foul penalties.

When asked about the ongoing penalty issue, Gilbert said that he and the coaching staff will preach about doing better, while also saying he wants his team to play hard and to the whistle.

"Just talk about being disciplined and knowing the situation," Gilbert said. "Being a smart player. The one thing we're going to do week-in, week-out is play physical, play fast, play with a lot of effort. I've been quoted before, there's a thin line with teams that do that."

Now, with the Alcorn game and non-conference play as a whole in McNeese's rear view mirror, the start of Southland Conference play provides a stiff test as the Cowboys will travel to West Texas to take on Abilene Christian.

Last week, the Wildcats lost a close, back-and-forth game road game against Central Arkansas 31-30 in the SLC opener.

ACU boasts the second-ranked total offense in the Football Championship Subdivision (534.7 yards per game); one of those games came against NAIA Arizona Christian, but the Wildcats also put up 31 points and 456 yards against FBS North Texas.

The trip over to Abilene will also be a homecoming of sorts for Gilbert, who was born in San Angelo – about 95 miles southwest of Abilene – and was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Abilene Cooper High School from 2006-07.

"Home is home," Gilbert said. "Anytime you get an opportunity to go back that that way out in west Texas, it's always good. I know family and friends are coming over to Abilene for the game. Still know quite a few people in Abilene, Texas from when I coached there. Excited about the opportunity to see people and share the experience with them."

Gilbert also confirmed the expected news that linebacker Darius Daniels will miss the rest of the season after suffering a severe leg injury late in Saturday's win over Alcorn. Gilbert also said that he visited with Daniels on Saturday and that the Iowa-native was, "in good spirits," in the hospital.

McNeese will get back out on the practice field in preparation for ACU on Tuesday afternoon after having Monday off.

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