Saturday night saw the McNeese football team put up a few bright spots, but they never truly made any threat in a 56-14 loss to host Oklahoma State.
I predicted a 66-13 OSU win, and the orange and black Cowboys could have scored that many points or more if they kept the first or even second-string offense in the game. It's a performance that is tough to evaluate from a McNeese standpoint because I knew they'd eventually wind up outmatched in the game. Does the final score alone mean that McNeese isn't a good team? Not at all. As long as the team doesn't let this loss linger into the upcoming week of preparation and beyond, this game truly won't mean much.
That's not to say there aren't concerns, however. And that takes me into this week's installment of "The good, the bad, and the ugly."
Bailey Raborn: Having an elite punter is never a bad thing. Seeing too much of that elite punter can definitely turn into a bad thing after awhile. Raborn punted eight times on Saturday night and averaged 44.6 yards per punt. Seven of the junior's punts landed inside the OSU 20-yard line (six of those landed inside the OSU 10) and two punts went 50-plus yards, including a long of 60. Although early, it's a bit of a flashback to last season, when Alex Kjellsten was one of McNeese's best players.
Raborn is tied for eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision averaging 45 yards per punt. But he's also in the top 15 of punts, with 14 through two games. He's doing his job and doing it well, but McNeese needs to not see as much of him on fourth downs going forward.
Chris Livings: The senior picked up another sack and is now nine away from owning the career McNeese record in that category. If he keeps up the one sack per game pace, he'll be there with about a game to spare.
Darion Dunn: It was unknown if the Oakdale-native would play, and how much he would play if so. But Dunn had some good coverage at times against Tylan Wallace, widely considered as one of the best wide receivers in all of college football.
More fumbles: McNeese forced three more fumbles on Saturday, recovering two of them and returning one for a late touchdown. The Cowboy defense has some glaring issues, but they're at good at getting the ball out, as well as recovering it. Through two games, they lead the FCS with seven fumble recoveries; seven teams are tied for second with four.
Trevor Begue and D'Andre Hicks: Begue is arguably McNeese's number one receiver. He's certainly Cody Orgeron's favorite target. Against OSU, he had five receptions for 69 yards. Meanwhile, Hicks — the Appalachian State transfer — looks like a good weapon out of the backfield. Along with his 19 yards rushing, Hicks caught three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, including a 41-yard reception, the longest of the season for McNeese so far.
Penalties: While it wasn't the flag fest that the Southern game was, nine penalties for 64 yards is still a lot. Through two weeks, McNeese has the most penalty yards in the FCS (241) and the second-most penalties (25). The defensive line has to cut down on the offsides penalties.
Darion Dunn: He giveth, and he taketh away. For as good as he was going backwards in coverage, he was equally as bad coming up to support the OSU run and screen game. He lost contain on Wallace's first touchdown, and missed a tackle on Wallace's third score. In the first quarter, Dunn missed a tackle on Dillon Stoner, but he recovered to force a fumble that McNeese recovered. Like I said, Dunn's coverage was pretty good, even when Wallace made tough catches. But the other aspects of his game need to improve since he's the No. 1 corner now.
Red zone offense: Last week, I complimented McNeese's ability to make Southern pay for mistakes. This week, McNeese failed on consecutive drives to punch the ball in from the one-yard line. A much better opponent, yes I know. But each time, the McNeese offense had multiple chances to score from a yard out and couldn't. That can't happen.
Pass defense: McNeese's pass defense allowed five touchdown passes against OSU, four of which were 59 yards or more.
Yes, OSU is a prolific offense by any college football standard. But consider that the Cowboys struggled last week against Southern, a much more comparable opponent, as well. Through two games, McNeese has given up eight passing touchdowns (tied for second-most in the FCS) and an average of 326 yards passing per game, which ranks 102nd out of 116 FCS teams.
And who comes to visit next weekend? Alcorn State and its 2019 SWAC Preseason Player of the Year, quarterback Noah Johnson. McNeese has to tighten up on the back end, or else it will be a long season.
Tackling: I'd have to go back through the film, but there were too many missed tackles just off the top of my head. Another thing that needs to get better quickly.