Cowboys’ DWA faces potent UIW offense

McNeese State Cowboys defensive back Darion Dunn (1) breaks up a pass intended for Nicholls State Colonels wide receiver Dontaze Costly (85) during their Southland Conference game at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)

Rick Hickman

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Another week, another souped-up offense for the McNeese State defense to try and slow down.

The Cowboys’ last opponent, Abilene Christian, went into the matchup averaging 32.2 points and 496 yards of total offense per game. The McNeese defense held the Wildcats to 21 points and 315 yards.

After a much-needed bye week, the Defense With Attitude has to go on the road and take on Incarnate Word, the Southland Conference leader in total yards (491 yards per game).

Cardinals’ first-year head coach Eric Morris comes from the Air Raid system at Texas Tech. McNeese head coach Lance Guidry said he expects a high tempo and for UIW to run a lot of plays. Guidry has ideas as to how to combat that, including trying to beat the Cardinals at their own game.

“They go really, really fast and they run a lot of plays,” Guidry said. “They’re going to run anywhere from 90-100 plays, and when you do that, you go really fast. Your defense is going to play 90-100 plays as well. Like the Baylor offenses that were there, and like the Texas Techs, those guys were worried about getting as many yards and as many points as they can as fast as they can. The defense is going to play a lot of snaps when you do that.

“We’re going to try and get them off the field, get some three-and-outs, and leave their defense on the field for a while and try to get them tired by keeping their offense on the sideline, but that’s hard to do.”

A slight advantage that the Cowboys could have is the fact that they’ve played teams with similar offense styles. Early in the season, Houston Baptist caught the Cowboys off guard and put up 34 points, the most that McNeese has given up this season. But when ACU came to town a few weeks ago, the DWA was ready.

Sophomore cornerback Darion Dunn, who is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, said he believes that having faced similar offenses already will benefit the first-place Cowboys (5-1, 4-0 SLC) against UIW (3-2, 3-1).

“It helps a lot,” said Dunn, “because when you play teams like that, you’re more prepared for anything you haven’t seen or something that you’re not used to.”

The defensive line, which has been a bit thin on depth the past couple of games because of injuries, will get some reinforcements back in time to play UIW. Keivonnis Davis, who had to go home to Miami to attend to a personal matter, as well as Tyrique Gibson (injury), are back this week, Guidry said.

Depth will be key considering the number of plays UIW could run.

“We’ll try to substitute as much as we can, but if they don’t change personnel then we can’t get people off the field and on the field.” Guidry said. If they’re going to stay with four wide receivers with no tight end and one running back on the field and they keep going, we can’t rest the defensive linemen unless it’s an incomplete pass or we call a timeout.

“We’ll play multiple people and we’ll have time. There will be incomplete passes and loss-yardage plays. On third downs we’ll be able to get certain packages in.

“We try to run our guys as much as we can at practice going really fast against our scout team. There’s not a lot of contact in practice, but there’s a lot of speed and a lot of reps and plays. That’s the only thing you can do to simulate a game.”

Starting with Saturday against UIW, McNeese will face three of the top-five scoring offenses in the SLC to end the season.

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