UIW loss wake-up call for DWA

When Cody Roscoe stood in front of cameras and microphones to do interviews after Tuesday’s practice, he didn’t mince words about McNeese State’s performance last Saturday.

“I feel like we really disrespected our fans how way we came out and played,” the sophomore defensive end said about the Cowboys’ performance in a 45-17 loss to Incarnate Word. “We played flat. We really have to come back to the drawing board because it really was a slap in the face how we played.”

For a defense that prides themselves in being one of the best in the Football Championship Subdivision, the DWA (Defense With Attitude) was a major letdown in the first half against UIW. They allowed the Cardinals to rack up 390 yards of total offense — about 100 below UIW’s average — but the second-most McNeese has given up all season. The 154 rushing yards allowed was also the second-most given up this season and the most to an FCS team.

The task does not get any easier for the Cowboys as Central Arkansas comes rolling into town this weekend. The Bears lead the Southland Conference in scoring offense (35.4 points per game) and are third in the SLC in total offense (427.4 yards per game).

UCA’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat since losing quarterback Breylin Smith for the season when he broke his ankle in the Bears’ 34-31 overtime loss to Sam Houston State. Instead, redshirt freshman Luke Hales has stepped in and thrown for 808 yards and 11 touchdowns as Smith’s replacement.

“He’s a big kid, throws the ball well,” McNeese head coach/defensive coordinator Lance Guidry said of Hales. “They do some things different than they did with (Smith). (Smith) ran a little bit more, he was an athletic guy; he threw the ball a little bit more downfield. (Hales) is more run-pass option, so the ball comes out of his hands quick. It’s a quick process for him whether they’re going to run or throw. So we’re going to have all of our attention on what we need to.”

The UCA offense is balanced with two running backs with more than 400 yards rushing and three wide receivers with at least 381 yards receiving. Junior running back Carlos Blackman leads the Bears in rushing with 521 yards and seven touchdowns, while senior wide receiver Lester Wells is the top receiving target with 41 receptions for 481 yards. Senior Jakari Dillard — a 6-foot-4 Texas Tech transfer — leads UCA with six touchdown receptions.

The last two meetings between McNeese and UCA, the Bears have put up 82 points, a fact not lost on Cowboys players and coaches alike. In the Bears’ last three games, they’ve averaged 43.6 points per game.

“What they do best is what we do best,” Roscoe said about UCA’s run game and McNeese’s run defense. “So I feel like it’s going to be a dog fight. They have good players and we have good players so we both have to come ready to play.”

If McNeese fans want hope going into Saturday’s game, look at how the Cowboys’ defense responded from their only other loss. After losing to Brigham Young, the DWA responded with arguably its best performance, holding Stephen F. Austin to 188 yards of total offense and 10 points, both season-bests.

Right now, it seems that the only thing that UCA and SFA have in common is the color purple. One team is far superior to the other. But the numbers show that McNeese’s defense should not let one bad performance linger into two.

“Our mind-set is by any means,” Roscoe said of the team’s approach going into the UCA game. “We’re just going to come out and do our best, try our best and pull this win no matter what we have to do to get it.”””

McNeese State Cowboys Jonta Jones (90) makes the stop on Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks running back Josh McGowen (29) during their Southland Conference matchup at the Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

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