Cowboys can’t beat themselves

<p class="indent">This week the McNeese State football team will finally take on a long-awaited rival in Nicholls State.</p><p class="indent">The Colonels ultimately spoiled the Cowboys’ season in 2017 in the first game of the season when they defeated McNeese 37-35 with a last-second field goal.</p><p class="indent">The loss kept McNeese out of the postseason despite a 9-2 record, and it’s something that’s been on the Cowboys’ mind since that fateful day.</p><p class="indent">Nicholls has many of the same pieces it used to beat McNeese last year returning for Saturday’s matchup in Cowboy Stadium, but it’s probably not the Colonels the Cowboys are worried about.</p><p class="indent">The Colonels didn’t beat McNeese as much as McNeese beat itself last season.</p><p class="indent">The Cowboys dominated virtually every statistical category — first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, turnover margin and time of possession — except points.</p><p class="indent">Today we’re going to look at what went wrong and what the Cowboys have to do to avoid a similar fate on their (brand-new) home turf.</p><p class="indent"><strong>• </strong><span><strong>RED-ZONE EFFICIENCY</strong>:</span> This became an early story line last season as the Cowboys reached the red zone five times against Nicholls and came away with nine points for their efforts.</p><p class="indent">McNeese moved the ball well virtually all game and a blocked kick gave it an opportunity to start a drive inside the red zone, but once the Cowboys got past that 20-yard line, the offense just seemed to stall.</p><p class="indent">Part of it had to do with the fact that defenses could stack the box a bit more without consequence, and a thin offensive line couldn’t protect quarterback James Tabary long enough to go through his progressions. The offensive line has more depth now and the unit has shown marked improvement in pass blocking, and as a result the Cowboys have had more success in the red zone.</p><p class="indent"><strong>• </strong><span><strong>KILLER CHUNK PLAYS</strong>:</span> Nicholls thrived on giant plays to stay in the game early on, and it cost the Cowboys late.</p><p class="indent">The Colonels’ first three touchdowns were a 62-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chase Fourcade to receiver Damion Jeanpiere, a 67-yard pick six by Jonavon Lewis and a 77-yard touchdown pass, again from Fourcade to Jeanpiere.</p><p class="indent">Those two passes accounted for all but one of Jeanpiere’s receptions in the game, and Fourcade completed just 10 passes all game, three of which went for touchdowns.</p><p class="indent">McNeese’s secondary showed signs of weakness against Houston Baptist’s spread, and head coach Lance Guidry said he expects the Colonels to employ four wideouts at several points throughout the game.</p><p class="indent">The McNeese safeties and cornerbacks are going to have to keep Nicholls receivers in front of them to slow down a much more experienced and confident Fourcade.</p><p class="indent"><strong>• </strong><span><strong>FATEFUL FIELD GOALS</strong>:</span> An oft-overlooked fact about last season’s loss was the fact that the Colonels blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt late in the first half that may have forced Nicholls to score a touchdown on that last drive.</p><p class="indent">It was honestly kind of poetic, especially if you view it from the point of view of Nicholls fans.</p><p class="indent">The Colonels blocked a field goal as time expired in the first half to ultimately set up a winning Lorran Fonseca 32-yard field goal as time expired.</p><p class="indent">None of this is meant to open any wounds for McNeese fans. If anything these should be some pretty interesting things to watch this weekend to see if they’ve been fixed.</p><p class="indent">In preparation for a potential no-huddle offense, which the Cowboys struggled with against the Huskies, the entire team did seemingly endless sprints at the end of Tuesday’s practice.</p><p class="indent">We’ll see if similar precautions have been taken to ensure the Cowboys limit mistakes that haunted them last year.</p><hr /><p class="indent"><em><strong>Tyler Nunez</strong> covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at <strong><span class="text_link link_wrap type_eml" data-link-target="tnunez@americanpress.com" data-link-type="EML">tnunez@americanpress.com</span></strong></em></p>””Rival Game

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