Last SLC meeting for Cowboys, Cards

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

Two teams in different stages of rebuilding look to take a step toward their futures while renewing a border rivalry.

Lamar is off to an 0-2 start under first-year head coach Blane Morgan. McNeese State is 1-2 in the first season of the Frank Wilson era.

Both are looking for their first Southland Conference victories at noon today when they meet at Cowboy Stadium for the last time as league foes today.

“They are a young team with a first-year staff, but they have a lot of talent that is gaining experience,” Wilson said of the Cardinals. “I think they are going to play their best football against us.”

The same can be said for the Cowboys, who showed vast improvement last week at Southeastern Louisiana, falling 4 yards shy of a late go-ahead touchdown.

“We are getting better day to day,” Wilson said.

The teams will see their rivalry change after this game as Lamar is off to the Western Athletic Conference in the fall. The hope from both sides is they play again soon.

“It is a great rivalry and good for both schools,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “I think we will get something done.”

First, the teams need to get their first conference victory.

The Cardinals will be a different test than the first three weeks when the Cowboys faced spread offenses that played at a fast pace. Lamar looks more like one of those military programs, running the football and trying to control the clock by way of the old option. Fullback dives are expected.

“A drastic change,” Wilson called it. “A completely different style on offense that will test our guys. They have a plethora of things you have to prepare for.

“It’s a unique offense.”

The key will likely be if the young Cowboy defenders stay true to their assignments and not freelance. Lamar likes to counter but will also throw when needed.

Cardinals quarterback Jalen Dummett has completed 72 percent of his passes (18-25 1 interception) but for only 156 yards. Lamar is last in the Southland in total offense, averaging 225.5 yards a game and scoring 20 points in two games.

The Cardinals have also struggled on defense, ranking last in the conference in both points allowed (48.5) and yards per game (632.5). Lamar is allowing 338.5 yards a game on the ground, something an improving McNeese run game hopes to exploit.

“We want to be more consistent on offense and running the ball,” said Wilson, who got a solid performance last week from A.J. Carter. The transfer from Arizona State ran for 57 yards and a touchdown. Before that, quarterback Cody Orgeron was the Cowboys’ top rusher, most of those yards coming on scrambles.

Wilson said McNeese would like to open up its offense more, creating big plays. That might be coming as the offensive line continues to show improvement.

“We want to find ways to make them have to defense the width and the length of the field,” Wilson said. “We would like to expand our playbook with what we do well.”

Ultimately, both teams want to run the ball, stay ahead of schedule and manage the clock. In many ways the teams look a lot alike.

In the end, this game is about improvement for both teams, each of which is looking more toward the future.McNeese State’s Jamal Pettigrew gets brought down after the reception by Incarnate Word’s Kelechi Anyalebechi during the first half of their game at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. 

Rich Hickman / American Press