Cowboys regroup for Lions

Published 2:42 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

As facts continue to trickle out concerning the surroundings of McNeese State’s lost homecoming, the Cowboys began to move on Monday.

They turned their attention to Southeastern Louisiana, another state foe who, like the Cowboys, is struggling. Both teams enter Saturday’s game in Hammond with 1-7, 1-3 Southland Conference records. Both wins came courtesy of Northwestern State (0-7), which has canceled the remainder of its season, resulting in the Cowboys receiving a forfeit victory on Saturday.

If McNeese is playing below its expectations, it need only to look across the line of scrimmage Saturday to find a team in the same boat.

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“Their season hasn’t gone their way either,” McNeese head coach Gary Goff said. “They have more talent than their record.”

While the Cowboys, who were projected to finish third in the SLC, are in a rebuild, the Lions were expected to be a playoff and conference title contender. They entered the season picked to win the league and were ranked in the national polls.

“It is bizarre,” Goff said of Southeastern’s struggle. “It really is when you watch them. They have talent. They really got some talent on their roster.”

Both have also had plenty of time to get healthy. The Lions are coming off their scheduled bye week.

The Cowboys will have played one game in 21 days come Saturday afternoon. The forfeit win, was the 520th and possibly strangest victory in program history. But that is not what the Cowboys wanted or needed.

“It is very unfortunate,” Goff said. “We want to play these games. It is a shame we didn’t get to play. But what happened is a real tragedy.”

Northwestern State is suffering through the Oct. 12 shooting death of defensive back Ronnie Caldwell Jr., but the Lions did play and lost 37-20 at home to Southeastern on. Oct. 19 after the incident and before canceling the season on Oct. 26.

“I can’t imagine what they are going through,” Goff said. “I don’t know if there is a manual on how to take care of a situation like that.”

Now he says the Cowboys must refocus.

“It’s different, your bye week, you are prepared for it,” Goff said. “Mentally we were all kind of shocked last week when the game was canceled. I expect the guys are going to come out and be excited to play.

“We have to kind of regroup a little bit.”

With four games remaining, Goff said McNeese was planning to play more young players. That won’t change, he said, with three games to play.

“We are pretty much going into this game with the same mind-set as last week,” Goff said.

That means Goff will once again plan on getting true freshman quarterback Kamden Sixkiller into the game. Sixkiller has yet to play but has been trending upward during practices, Goff said.

“He is big and strong and we want to see what he can do,” he said.

Ryan Roberts will get the start but Goff added that Sixkiller could enter the game as the No. 2 quarterback.

That could leave Nate Glantz the odd man out. Two games ago Glantz was the starter but has as of late has struggled with turnovers.

“I have talked to Nate about all this,” Goff said. “He wants to be the guy, he wants to be out there. But he has had a good attitude.”

The Lions have won four straight over McNeese, but all have been close. Southeastern has outscored the Cowboys by 12 points during those games, including winning last fall by one, 28-27.

If the Cowboys are to break the streak, they must slow down the Southeastern run game, something they have had trouble doing this season. McNeese allows an average of 235 yards on the ground a game, 40 yards more than any other team in the Southland.

“Stopping the run has to be a concern for us all year,” Goff said. “By no means have we mastered that.”