Skirting by catching up with Cowboys
Have you ever been correct, in an incorrect way?
When I think of McNeese head football coach Lance Guidry and his belief this season that it didn’t matter how his team got the win, just that they got the win, I think of this.
If the Cowboys won every regular season game by one point each, they’d be 11-0 and easily going to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. And if they won 4-5 games in the playoffs by one point each, they’d be crowned the FCS national champions with no debate.
But that’s not how it usually works. Playoff teams – especially the elite ones – leave no doubt against teams that are considered inferior to them. Sure they may have a tough game here or there, but they don’t make a habit of it.
This McNeese team tricked themselves in a sense. Because they believed that simply winning games was good enough, they got bit when they let Northwestern State keep the game close.
Stephen F. Austin is second-to-last in the Southland Conference. McNeese needed a late drive to preserve a 17-10 win. Northern Colorado is 2-9 and only two teams in the Big Sky have a worse conference record than them. The Cowboys had to survive two fourth quarter touchdowns by the Bears to escape with a 17-14 victory.
The Nicholls win is the best of the season and it’s not even close. Despite the close margin of victory, the Colonels are a win away from earning the SLC’s automatic berth. The win over Abilene needed a big punt return for a touchdown and even after that, had to survive ACU scoring a late touchdown and going for an onside kick.
The loss to NSU was just the chickens coming home to roost on this season for McNeese.
Two drives by the McNeese offense, one late in the third quarter and one in the first overtime, defines the “just get the win, even by a point” attitude that I think permeated the Cowboys.
Up 21-7, NSU easily marched down the field and, in less than three minutes, scored to cut the Cowboy lead down to a touchdown.
So how does McNeese respond with James Tabary, a quarterback that got a little bit of his mojo back and had thrown two touchdowns to that point in the game? A first down run, for a loss of two yards. A second down run, for no gain. And a third down run, for seven yards.
Alex Kjellsten came on to punt, and NSU drove down to kick a field goal to cut McNeese’s lead down to 21-17.
A hot quarterback against an average at best pass defense, and you don’t throw the ball once on the drive? Seemed to me like McNeese thought there was a minute left in the fourth quarter, not the third quarter like was actually the case.
Well, a lot happened between that drive and the next drive I want to bring up. But fast-forward to McNeese’s possession on offense in the first overtime. You can’t set a situation up better in thosew circumstances. The Cowboys won the toss and went on defense first. They held NSU to a field goal attempt that they missed. So all the Cowboys need is a field goal to get out of Natchitoches with a win. SLC title and playoff hopes still in tact. Winning streak over NSU still a thing.
A first down pass to the right flats caught by Rodnell Cruell for four yards. A Ryan Ross run up the middle for two yards. And an incomplete pass to the left flats.
Two issues: not once did they try to end the game or at least get a big chunk of yards by going down field. They seemed to be satisfied with dink-and-dunking and kicking the field goal if they had to.
Next issue, though admittedly not as big: with the ball on the right hash after the first down throw, there was no effort to get the ball to the middle of the field. If you are going to try and kick the field goal, make it easier for your kicker.
Now, NSU blocked the field goal and they would have blocked it no matter where the ball was set. But my main point is that I feel like the conservative playing caught up with the Cowboys.
McNeese played with the fire of mediocre teams too much this season. They were bound to get burnt. And it was a Demon that did it.