Red-zone game needs swift boot McNeese leaving points on field

First they tried to kick, then run and finally throw. Three times on Saturday McNeese State moved the football deep into the red zone. But the kick went wide, the run fell short and the pass was picked off.

Seventeen points left on the field in a 23-20 loss to the No. 6 team in the country, Southeastern Louisiana.

“We tried to kick it, run it, pass it,” said McNeese head coach Frank Wilson. “I don’t know what else we could do.”

It is not a new problem.

Since the Wilson era began last spring, the Cowboys (3-5, 2-3 Southland Conference) have proven they can play with anybody. They just haven’t proven they are a complete enough team to beat everybody.

Saturday was the most disappointing.

A missed 21-yard field goal attempt started the woes. It was followed moments later by a quarterback run on fourth-andgoal from the 2.

Cody Orgeron rolled out and raced for the end zone only to come up shy by half a yard. In the third quarter, on first-andgoal from the 1, Orgeron was intercepted.

“We are not good enough yet to overcome those missed scoring chances,” Wilson said.

The problems in Strawberry Stadium last weekend began, ironically, the last time Mc-Neese was in Hammond.

In the spring, McNeese was down 25-30 and driving against the Lions, ranked 23rd nationally at the time. But Orgeron fumbled at the SLU 4-yard line on third down with time running out, killing the upset bid.

A week later the Cowboys lost 27-26 in overtime to Lamar, missing a field goal attempt in regulation and an extra point in OT.

Even the loss to No. 5 and eventual national champion Sam Houston State in the season finale was frustrating.

During the 27-13 loss, the Cowboys missed a field goal attempt and had to settle for two field goals instead of touchdowns after driving inside the Sam Houston 10, dropped a would-be touchdown pass and fumbled the ball at the 1, leaving a potential 25 points off the board.

A promising spring ended 3-4.

“We had our chances,” Wilson said at the time. “We put ourselves in position to win. We have to learn from this.”

But the fall season hasn’t been any different. A 42-36 loss to Division II No. 1 West Florida came in the opener. McNeese missed three conversion kicks, a field goal attempt and came up short on a 2-point conversion.

The first meeting against Southeastern in the fall ended as a 38-35 loss in Lake Charles with another short field goal try missed. Then last Saturday.

Six games, five against ranked opponents, and the Cowboys left more than enough points on the field to win them all.

“We have to find a way to score down there,” Wilson said. “We will re-evaluate what we are doing.”

The kicking game has been the real problem. McNeese is 1 of 6 on field goal tries this fall after struggling in the spring. And all the misses seem to come back and haunt them. To make matters worse all have been from inside 36 yards.

“Dismal,” is how Wilson said he would describe the kicking this season.

“It’s unfortunate we haven’t been able to figure this out. That takes a toll on your offense. It puts us in a position that we have to go for it.”

Wilson said the struggles have forced coaches to call other plays than maybe they would have otherwise. Same with goal-line situations.

“Are we the team that can spot the ball at the 1 and plow it straight ahead? We are not there yet,” Wilson said. “We will continue to work on it until we figure it out.”

The Cowboys are running out of time this fall and need to figure it out fast if they want to finish the season with a winning record.

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