McNeese St. stands in the way of LSU going 7-0
It took ninth-ranked LSU nearly half the season to look
comfortable on offense.
The timing couldn’t be worse for McNeese State head coach Matt
Viator, who figures his battered Cowboys (2-3) would have had a
tough time with LSU (6-0) even if the Tigers’ offense was still
struggling to move the ball.
”It’s a tough task for us,” Viator said. ”Anytime you go play
a good football team in a tough atmosphere and maybe minus a few of
your guys, it’s always going to be tough. But our kids are excited.
… We’ll do the best we can.”
McNeese State, which plays in the Football Championship
Subdivision, has lost leading rusher Marcus Wiltz and starting left
tackle Taylor Johnson to season-ending injuries. Meanwhile,
starting quarterback Jacob Bower has been dealing with a concussion
and Viator plans to start backup Cody Stroud, with the hope that
Bower can still dress and play as needed.
The Cowboys have long been an elite team in the FCS, having made
their 14th appearance in the national playoffs in 2009. This season
has been more of a struggle. Last weekend, they had a late lead
over Stephen F. Austin when Stroud threw a touchdown pass to Wes
Briscoe in the fourth quarter, only to lose when the Lumberjacks
rallied for a last-minute score.
Now the Cowboys head to Tiger Stadium for the first time to take
on an unbeaten LSU team coming off its most impressive victory of
the season at Florida last weekend.
For a second straight week, LSU went with a two-quarterback
system that capitalized on Jordan Jefferson’s ability to scramble
and run the option, and Jarrett Lee’s strengths as a pocket
Although LSU needed a touchdown pass from Lee to Terrence
Toliver in the final seconds to pull out the 33-29 win, the Tigers
dominated the game statistically. LSU outgained Florida in the air,
224 yards to 154, and outrushed the Gators, 181 yards to 116.
Now LSU coach Les Miles appears sold on the two-quarterback
strategy that he initially resisted while Jefferson was struggling
to move the offense through the air.
”It appeared to me that there was a little bit more swagger in
that position,” Miles said. ”They were both going in there to
play and play comfortably and make plays, which is one of the
reasons they had success.”
On the ground, LSU is averaging nearly 190 yards, led by Stevan
Ridley, who ranks second in the Southeastern Conference with an
average of 106.7 yards rushing.
Yet, despite their recent success, there remains a feeling among
the Tigers that they can do better.
”We have yet to play a complete game,” left tackle Joseph
Barksdale said. ”We have set a very high ceiling which we are
trying to reach this year. We are miles away from our best
Meanwhile, LSU continues to play dominant defense, leading the
vaunted SEC in total defense (246 yards per game) and rushing
defense (80.7 yards).
The Tigers’ defense, led by tackle Drake Nevis, linebacker
Kelvin Sheppard and cornerback Patrick Peterson, is what concerns
Viator most, particularly in light of the Cowboys’ injuries on
”They have a lot of speed and run to the ball, and like a coach
put it, they don’t play nice,” Viator said. ”They don’t line up
the same way and are constantly pressuring. I’ve never seen anybody
do what they do on defense. They continue to run good players in
down after down after down.”
Recent history runs against McNeese State. LSU is 21-0 in
regular-season, non-conference games since Miles took over in 2005.
The last time the Tigers played an FBS team, they beat Appalachian
State 41-13 to open the 2008 season.
Meanwhile, if LSU wins, they’ll be 7-0 for the first time since
opening 9-0 in 1973.
”The Florida game was a checkpoint for us. We now realize where
we are as a team,” linebacker Ryan Baker said. ”We’ve got a good
team, but there is room for improvement. Once we get all the pieces
together, we’ll be a pretty good.”