Jim Gazzolo column: Final 30 minutes bring hope and frustration for Cowboys and fans
For the final 30 minutes of football Saturday McNeese State outplayed the No. 15 -ranked team in the nation.
For the final 30 minutes Cody Orgeron outplayed the division’s national player of the year.
For the final 30 minutes the Cowboys showed the promise most were expecting.
That’s both the hope and frustration for the Cowboys and their faithful.
On this roster there is more than enough talent to win games, compete against the Southland’s best and restore the program to its rightful place.
Unfortunately, there is also the other 30 minutes we are witnessing. It’s those minutes which makes the second 30 nothing more than a tease, nice window dressing.
They are the fancy wrapped package under the tree on Christmas morning you can’t wait to open. Disappointingly so far this season there is only a stale fruit cake under that wrapping.
In those other 30 minutes there is chaos and confusion, mistakes and missteps.
Once Saturday at the goal line, the Cowboys tried to run personal onto the field defensively as the ball was snapped. They either had 13 men on the field or 10 depending on which way you were looking. As flags flew Southeastern scored easily.
That was one of several moments that made you think this team had no chance. Then, as if they changed rosters at halftime, the other Cowboys showed up and put on a near-perfect show. But the good 30 could not overcome the bad and McNeese lost 38-35 against Southeastern.
Add the fact that the Cowboys dropped three passes and missed a field goal and you see why they were down 24-7 after the first 30 minutes.
“We are not good enough to overcome those things and leave points on the field,” said head coach Frank Wilson.
“To dig a hole for yourself with an inexperienced team is tough.”
However, that is becoming the norm for McNeese, which might be the most confusing thing of all.
Over the first five games of the season, the Cowboys (1-4) have been outscored 100-30 in the first half of games. Those 30 minutes are the reason McNeese leaves its fans scratching their heads.
“We just came out sluggish,” said Orgeron.
But really that’s not the entire story.
In three of the five games, the Cowboys have scored the game’s first touchdown in the opening five minutes. Saturday was no different.
So initially Wilson’s team has played well, and has played well in the second half.
The problem seems to come after the opening moments. The Pokes can’t maintain that early momentum.
So there is more confusion then just to say it’s a slow start.
There are obvious problems with the team. It is still short on healthy talent on the offensive line, and the running game hasn’t really clicked. And we won’t mention the kicking game and its issues.
But there are positives as well. The ability to flip the script in second halves is a solid sign, as is some of the big plays being made by Mason Pierce.
We also saw tremendous improvement during the spring season. Yet we can’t get too excited either, because the Cowboys are 1-4 as we enter the bye week and they have to run the table at this point to have anything close to the season they wanted or thought they might have.
Can it be done, yes, but it’s time for this team to take a good look at where it is and how it got here before it can figure out where it’s going to do.
Stretching those good 30 minutes into a full 60 will be the only way for this to turn around.
Otherwise time will run out on a season that was only half good.
Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org