Undefeated McNeese Captures Southland Conference Crown

I got to thinking back to the Labor Day weekend when I plopped down on the couch to watch my alma mater, the McNeese State Cowboys, play their “sacrificial lamb” football game at Baton Rouge against the mighty LSU Tigers to open their 2015 season on national television.

The national anthem played and the teams were on the sidelines as the traditional coin flip was taking place at the middle of the field at “Death Valley” when lightning was seen on the horizon.

The game officials immediately declared a 35-minute pause in the action to comply with the new NCAA ruling that states if there is lightning flashing within eight miles of the stadium, a moratorium of at least 35 minutes must be observed.

As fate would have it the 35 minutes turned into an hour, then two and finally the nearly 100,000 fans at Tiger Stadium were told the game had officially been canceled.

I was pretty certain at the time that LSU would have won that Sept. 5 contest, but something happened after that day to both the Bengal Tigers and the McNeese Cowboys—they didn’t lose a game on their schedules until they both faced crucial  games in their respective conferences Saturday night.

LSU had to travel to Tuscaloosa to take on Southeast Conference West Division preseason favorite Alabama while the Cowboys had a match-up at home in Lake Charles against defending Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State, which also was favored to repeat again this year according to the preseason media that follows the SLC.

During those two months since the cancellation between LSU and McNeese, I seriously began to wonder if perhaps that “sacrificial lamb” game–where the Cowboys trade an embarrassing loss for a nifty pile of cash–might have been one heck of a battle if the weather had cooperated.

The Bayou Bengals rode the explosive running of young Leonard Fournette to glide through their first seven games this fall without too much opposition while the 8-0 Cowboys lead the conference in defense and have allowed only one team to score more than 14 points against them.

On Saturday the Crimson Tide’s defense completely bottled up Fournette, who had gained at least 150 rushing yards in every game, limiting him to 31 yards on 19 carries. Alabama’s premier running back junior Derrick Henry outdid his counterpart by gaining 210 yard son 38 carries to lead the Tide to a 30-16 victory.

McNeese had its anxious moments, too, at Cowboy Stadium Saturday night as Sam Houston got off to a quick 10-0 start.

However, the Pokes head coach Matt Viator must have read them the riot act after that because the Cowboys scored 27 straight points to crush any thoughts the Bearkats might have had of winning another SLC title.

The 27-10 victory gives the Cowboys an automatic berth into the FCS post-season tournament that begins at the end of the month.

McNeese became the only team in Southland Conference history to win eight league games in a season and need only to defeat arch-rival Lamar Nov. 21 to complete an undefeated season, matching their 1963 team. They also won their first eight games in 1979, 1995 and 2007.

The Cowboys lead the SLC in total rushing and scoring defense and are ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense (70 ypg), No. 3 in scoring defense (10-9 ppg) and No 5 in total defense (280 ypg).

Offensively, the Pokes are averaging 215 yard per game rushing, led by Ryan Ross and quarterback Daniel Sams, who also is second in the SLC in total offense (230 ypg).

Maybe that Sept. 5 cancellation saved LSU some early-season humiliation!!!

KWICKIES…The Missouri Tigers football team was successful with their threat to boycott their upcoming game Saturday in Provo, Utah against BYU if their president didn’t resign. Tim Wolfe, who ignored various racial incidents that have occurred on campus of the 35,000 students–of which eight per cent are African-American–resigned his position as president of Missouri University Monday morning. One of the major complaints of the students was that Wolfe has only a bachelor’s degree.

Last week was a tough one for several undefeated college and NFL teams. LSU, TCU, Michigan State, Memphis and Toledo all fell from the unbeaten ranks in the NCAA while Denver dropped out of the elite group in the NFL. Clemson, Ohio State, Baylor, Iowa, Houston and Oklahoma State still have perfect records in the collegiate ranks while New England, Cincinnati and Carolina remain undefeated in the NFL.

And while we’re on the subject of great college teams, there was a change at the top of the Associated Press Top 25 College Poll this week as Clemson edged ahead of over-rated Ohio State as the No. 1 team. Alabama shot up four placed to No. 3, Baylor dropped two slots to No. 4, Oklahoma State skyrocketed from No. 12 to No. 5, Notre Dame, Stanford and Iowa all moved up two notches to No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, LSU dropped five places to No. 9 and Utah moved up three places to No. 10. TCU dropped from third to No. 12, undefeated Houston gets no respect for its No. 16 position while Wisconsin, Navy and Northwestern are newcomers to this week’s poll.

Area NFL fans will get an opportunity to watch Orange native Earl Thomas in action Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.

Baseball brass and players agents are at the annual general manager’s meeting at Boca Raton, Fla. this week as a precursor to the winter meetings which will be held next month in Nashville, TN. Very few trades are expected to occur, but the GMs will get a good idea of who might be available when the wheeling and dealing becomes hot and heavy.

Not only did a driving rain hamper the Lamar homecoming during Saturday’s Southland Conference game with Nicholls State, but the visiting Colonels escaped Beaumont with a 30-28 victory when Cardinals junior kicker Alex Ball missed a chip-shot 23-yard field goal as time expired.

JUST BETWEEN US…It’s really ironic that a Jefferson County daily newspaper has finally decided the West Orange-Stark Mustangs are the No. 1 team in the Southeast Texas area, after putting them behind East Chambers all season long. But the newspaper elevated the Mustangs after a bye week, dropping their favorite Buccaneers team to No 3, behind Kirbyville, who shellacked them 30-14 last week.