What’s ahead for Cowboys, season of transition

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, June 22, 2022

By Jim Gazzolo

Special to the Daily News

The new football season is 73 days away, but there are lots of questions to be answered in that time for McNeese State.

Quarterback is the biggest as first-year head coach Gary Goff must find somebody to run his high-speed offense. There are also 46 new players and a new coaching staff that must blend together.

But that’s for camp. Here we will take an early look at the upcoming campaign as McNeese tries to bounce back from back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990.

At Montana State

Sept. 3

Time: TBA

The Gary Goff era opens against the defending Football Championship Subdivision runner-up Bobcats who were 12-3 last year. The third-ranked team according to HERO Sports and fourth by Athlon is led by second-year head coach Brent Vigen.

Like the Cowboys, Montana State hit the NCAA transfer portal hard and found a lot of help from the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Playoff star Tommy Mellott returns at quarterback. He was injured in the championship loss to North Dakota State. Along with senior tailback Isaiah Ifanse who ran for 1,623 yards last year, the Bobcats will be strong again.

At Rice

Sept. 10

Time: 6:30 p.m.

McNeese will head to Houston for this year’s encounter with an FBS program with the hopes of pulling off an upset.

It will be the first meeting between programs and can serve as a realistic test for the Cowboys who are looking to one day move to Conference USA.

Rice, which finished 4-8 last season, is leaving C-USA for the American Conference after this season. The four wins was the most for the Owls since 2015. This is one of those games that should be on upset alert.

Alcorn State

Sept. 17

Time: 7 p.m.

For the first time since 2019 the Cowboys will host a night game. After being forced to play at noon the last two season, lights return to Cowboy Stadium for this game against the Braves from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

McNeese is 4-0 all-time against Alcorn, outscoring the Braves 146-67 in those games. All the meetings have come since 2020.

The Cowboys will enter the game having lost each of their last two home openers during the daytime.

Mississippi College

Sept. 24

Time: 7 p.m.

Don’t look now but here comes another Division II program. The last time that happened West Florida opened 2021 by shocking the Cowboys 42-36.

McNeese boasts a 3-0 record against the Choctaws, but the two haven’t played since 2015. The Cowboys won the first meeting in 1988 by a 6-2 margin in a torrential storm.

Expect the score to be much higher this time around with Goff’s offense proclaiming it will fire the cannon often this season.

Houston Baptist

Oct. 1

Time: 7 p.m.

The last of three consecutive home games is also McNeese’s Southland Conference opener.

The Cowboys are 4-0 all-time against the Huskies, including winning 44-3 last Nov. 13. That was by far McNeese’s best game of the season.

McNeese owns a 12-0 record against their first five opponents. The Huskies are looking to rebound from an 0-11 season.

At Texas


Oct. 15

Time: 7 p.m.

McNeese heads to Commerce for the first time since 1970 when the Lions won 57-26. The Cowboys came back to win the next year in Lake Charles 47-3.

Those are the only meetings between the programs so not much can be taken from them. However, they are expected to play a lot in the future as the Lions are entering the Southland this season as part of moving up from the Division II level.

McNeese would like to make a statement against their new SLC foes but the Lions would also like to send a message.

At Nicholls State

Oct. 22

Time: 7 p.m.

The first of two games in 21 days between the rivals will be played in Thibodaux.

McNeese leads the series 32-14 and is 15-6 at Guidry Stadium. But there are a lot of changes for both teams since last fall’s 24-14 Colonels win in Lake Charles.

Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks as McNeese’s Cody Orgeron graduated and Nicholls’ Lindsey Scott, a onetime LSU prospect, transferred to Incarnate Word.

Like much of the conference, there are more questions than answers with all the roster changes for this one.

SE Louisiana

Oct. 22

Time: 7 p.m.

This will be the fourth meeting between the teams since the spring of 2021 so things might get a little interesting.

Unfortunately for McNeese fans the Lions have won all three of those games by a total of 11 points. In each of those games the Cowboys had a chance to win late only to have mistakes cost them dearly.

McNeese is 21-17 overall in the rivalry including a 14-5 record in Cowboy Stadium. Expect this to be close no matter what the records are going in.

Eastern Illinois

Nov. 5

Time: 7 p.m.

This game is part of the scheduling alliance between the Southland and Ohio Valley conferences.

The teams have met twice before with McNeese winning both times. The last meeting came in 1993 at Cowboy Stadium and ended in a 49-7 McNeese victory.

Three years earlier McNeese won in Charleston, Illinois, 15-7. Eastern finished 1-10 last fall and the Panthers are still considered to be in the rebuilding process.

Nicholls State

Nov. 12

Time: 7 p.m.

The second game of the season between the two will be played at Cowboy Stadium and is the last home contest of the regular season.

Last fall Southland teams played three opponents twice after five football-playing schools left the league that summer forcing schedule shifting late.

This fall SLC teams will play one opponent in a home-and-home series. Last season McNeese went 2-4 in those home-and-home games.

Northwestern State

Nov. 19

Time: 7 p.m.

Despite a 44-18-1 record against the Demons, it is Northwestern State that had the last laugh.

The Demons ended last season on a high note, upsetting McNeese 24-20 in Lake Charles. The Cowboys were completely outplayed and had little energy against a team they had beaten easily earlier in the fall.

The Cowboys are hoping this game is not the end of their season but the start of the postseason. If that is to happen they can’t play flat in this one.