A two-year trend rears its ugly head again for McNeese football
Posted at 4:43 PM on Monday, October 23, 2023
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For the true optimist, the first half of Saturday night’s game at Cowboy Stadium was a glimpse of what could be.
For the pessimist, the second half was much the same.
McNeese State’s glass is either half empty or half full depending on which side of the fence you ride.
While the Pokes are still 0-7, the young group played its best half of the season against Incarnate Word, leading the nation’s fifth-ranked team 24-7 at the break.
Then a two-year trend reared its ugly head again. The Pokes were completely outplayed in the second half and lost 35-24, showing signs of their youth and lack of depth along the way.
“The second half they won the battle,” McNeese head coach Gary Goff said. “We have to finish the game. This is a hurdle we have to overcome.
“We have to stop looking at the scoreboard. We have to keep attacking. We can’t sulk when things go badly and think “Here we go again”. Part of it is human nature.
The Cowboys didn’t react well when things started to snowball. They blew a 17-point lead Saturday night, the second time a three-point lead has been blown.
McNeese had a 21-point lead in Week 4 against Eastern Illinois in a 31-28 loss to the Panthers. Twice this season the Pokes have been shut out in the second half of games.
The loss to UIW was especially tough after playing so well early.
“So disheartening, but you have to put this behind you,” Goff said. “We have to find something to build.”
McNeese has been outscored in all seven of his second halves this season. Opponents outscored the Pokes 140-34, turning wins into mostly double-digit losses.
It’s a trend that has also been seen in Goff’s first season on the McNeese sidelines. McNeese was outscored 184-104 in second halves last year when they finished 4-7.
The combined two-year deficit is 323-138 over the final 30 minutes of games.
“Consistent play for four quarters is the key, and we haven’t done that,” Goff said. “We’re not very consistent.
“We told them that (at halftime) and not to look at the scoreboard on Saturday. There has to be a 0-0 mindset.”
After an electrifying first half, McNeese was held to just 80 yards of total offense over the final two quarters. And the defense allowed 311 yards to a backup quarterback and a pair of backup running backs.
“We want to take the positives from Saturday night and these,” Goff said.
Two of the positives were the play of a pair of walkers.
Quarterback Ryan Roberts and running back Joshon Barbee came off the bench to have big nights. Roberts started for the first time since late last season and went 17 of 30 for 200 yards and a pair of touchdown passes against John McCall.
Barbee ran for 117 yards on 21 carries. He entered the game with just two carries for 14 yards and a TD while playing in just one game prior to last Saturday.
“I’m very proud of the way those two guys played,” Goff said. “They took advantage of their opportunities.”
Both will get more time now with four games remaining in the season.
Roberts, who led McNeese to three wins last season, will be the Cowboy’s starter this week when they host Northwestern State for Homecoming.
“Ryan did a great job and he deserved it,” Goff said when asked about Roberts’ start.
Barbee will get a chance to earn more playing time after starting the season fifth on the depth chart. Goff said he expects D’Angelo Durham to return to the lineup after missing the last two games with an injured shoulder.
In other injury news, senior defensive back Jaylen Jackson will miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Jackson started three games for the Pokes this season, collecting 11 tackles before his injury.