D-line soft on run, hard against pass

<p class="indent">The McNeese State football team has made its name over the past two years by stopping the run, and this year’s “Blue Wall” has some big shoes to fill after the Cowboys allowed a Football Championship Subdivision-best 54.5 rushing yards per game last season.

<p class="indent">In their season opener against Northern Colorado, the defensive front looked as if it was ready for the challenge, allowing 40 rushing yards despite the Bears having a four-year starting running back in Trae Riek.

<p class="indent">However, the unit took a bit of a step back last week against Houston Baptist, allowing DeShawn Merriweather to rack up 146 yards and two touchdowns.

<p class="indent">One of those was a 57-yard touchdown run on a play that began before the defense was lined up due to confusion after the previous play and a no-huddle offense.

<p class="indent">But while that performance may have put last year’s record out of reach, where the Cowboys (2-0) have enjoyed success up front is defending the pass.

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<span>Nicholls </span><span class="text_link link_wrap type_url" data-link-type="URL" data-link-target="http://St.at"><span>St.</span> <span>at</span> </span><span>McNeese 6 p.m. Saturday, CST</span>

</div></div><p class="indent">Defensive linemen, linebackers and even safeties have hounded opposing quarterbacks. The defense has recorded 10 sacks for 51 yards.

<p class="indent">Sophomore defensive end Cody Roscoe has been involved in almost half of those sacks, tallying 4.5 for 23 yards.

<p class="indent">“I’m not going to lie, I was expecting this,” Roscoe said. “Me and (junior defensive end Chris Livings) have been talking about this for a long time, to be the Dynamic Duo getting sacks. Our interior made up of (defensive tackles) Jonta Jones and Marval Bourgeois, they make it easy for all of us.”

<p class="indent">Livings missed the last game due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the season opener at Northern Colorado, and he didn’t practice early in the week during preparation for Saturday’s home and Southland Conference opener against Nicholls State. There is no timetable for his return, said head coach Lance Guidry, who is also the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator.

<p class="indent">But his position is seemingly in good hands as Tyrique Gibson served as a suitable replacement last week against the Huskies.

<p class="indent">“Tyrique’s a guy we recruited out of high school that we felt highly about,” Guidry said. “We thought he was a guy who could play defensive end or defensive tackle.

<p class="indent">“With Chris Livings not playing, we had to put him into a starting role, and I thought he did well. He’s probably going to play a bigger role, and we have to keep him focused on doing what he needs to do on the defensive line.”

<p class="indent">The defensive line might get help in the coming weeks as the debut of Florida transfer defensive lineman Keivonnis Davis may come sooner than expected.

<p class="indent">Prior to the start of the season, Guidry said the 6-foot-4, 244-pound defensive end might sit out the first four weeks of the season due to a shoulder injury Davis suffered in a scooter accident on Sept. 26 last year in Florida while suspended. But in Tuesday’s news conference he indicated that Davis, who hasn’t played since the 2016 season, could be ready as soon as Saturday.

<p class="indent">“He’s working on practice this week and we’ll see if he can go on Saturday,” Guidry said. “If not, we’re probably looking at BYU (Sept. 22).”

<p class="indent">Davis was dismissed from the Gators’ program on Aug. 2 and joined the Cowboys three weeks later.

<p class="indent">This week the McNeese front six have their work cut out for them as they will have to defend a slippery quarterback in Chase Fourcade who can make passes as well as break off a big to elude pressure.

<p class="indent">Guidry said getting to Fourcade will be a key to success against the Colonels (1-1).

<p class="indent">“(Fourcade) is a really good player,” Guidry said. “He reminds me of (Derrick Fourroux) that played here (200-6-09). … He has the competitive spirit. He can make people miss; he’s good at running the football and he throws the ball well enough. He’s a truly complete competitor.”””<p>In this file photo, a host of Cowboys make the stop on a Northwestern State Demons running back for a loss during the 1st half of their Southland Conference game at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)</p>RickHickmanPhotographer
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