Cowboys up: McNeese rises in Top 25 poll

BY foxsports • October 12, 2015

(STATS) - Nobody has had an answer for Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette of LSU.

McNeese State never got to find out if it would have.

The Cowboys didn't get a chance to play LSU because their season-opening game was canceled by inclement weather last month. But the Southland Conference leader is still unbeaten, and this past Saturday's most important win to date pushed the Cowboys up seven spots to No. 15 in the STATS FCS Top 25 on Monday.

Jacksonville State remained No. 1 following its lone bye of the season, while North Dakota State moved up one spot to No. 2, passing Coastal Carolina.

All kidding aside, McNeese State would have been a heavy underdog against Fournette and LSU. But even the SEC power and the FBS rushing leader could have been impressed by the Cowboys' defense, which ranks third in the FCS by allowing just 72.8 rushing yards per game. Throw in McNeese State's numbers against the pass and it looks even better. Coach Matt Viator's team is first in the FCS in allowing only 243.4 total yards per game and just 6.8 points.

The Cowboys (5-0) beat nationally ranked Southeastern Louisiana 21-7 on Saturday night by limiting what had been the conference's No. 1 rushing offense to a season-low 59 yards as well as just 231 in total, another season low for the Lions. Cowboys safety Wallace Scott, the conference's defensive player of the week, fueled the big effort.

"We're playing really well right now," said Viator, who is in his 10th season leading McNeese and has a 73-32 career record. "Playing very good defensively. We're improving on offense each and every week. So far I'm pleased with how we're playing and competing."

The Cowboys' balanced defense also features senior safety Brent Spikes and senior linebacker Bo Brown, while sophomore cornerback Dominique Hill, the team leader in tackles, is building on an excellent rookie campaign. The offense is run-oriented behind senior quarterback Daniel Sams, a former starter at Kansas State.

Coming off a battle of teams unbeaten in the Southland, McNeese will do it again Saturday when it visits the purple-and-gray turf at Central Arkansas. The Cowboys are 4-0 in conference games and UCA is 3-0.

Also Saturday, top-ranked Jacksonville State will resume its Ohio Valley Conference schedule by traveling to Tennessee Tech. The Gamecocks (4-1) received 89 of the 159 first-place votes and 3,853 points.

North Dakota State, which beat a top 10 team for the second straight week by rallying past Northern Iowa 31-28 in the final minute of their Missouri Valley Football Conference showdown, edged Coastal Carolina for the No. 2 spot. The Bison (4-1), who have won the last four FCS national titles, received 27 first-place votes and 3,707 points.

Coastal Carolina fell one spot to No. 3 despite winning its Big South Conference opener against Presbyterian 24-17. The Chanticleers (6-0) received 30 first-place votes and 3,679 points as they head into a bye week.

Illinois State (4-1) received one first-place vote in remaining at No. 4. The Redbirds, who posted a 31-29 win over fellow Missouri Valley member Youngstown State, are just ahead of No. 5 James Madison (6-0), which received 12 first-place votes after quarterback Vad Lee's five touchdown passes led a 51-30 win over Towson in CAA Football.

The rest of the top 10 was Chattanooga (4-1), South Dakota State (4-1), Eastern Washington (3-2), Sam Houston State (3-2) and Fordham (5-1).

Youngstown State (3-2) slipped two spots to No. 11 and was followed by Northern Iowa (2-3), Richmond (4-1), Eastern Kentucky (3-2), McNeese State, Montana State (3-2), Portland State (4-1), Harvard (4-0), New Hampshire (3-2) and Montana (3-3). Portland State moved up eight spots after routing North Texas 66-7 for its second win over an FBS school this season.

The Top 25 was rounded out by Indiana State (3-2), Liberty (3-3), Southeastern Louisiana (3-2), William & Mary (3-2), which returned to the rankings as North Dakota fell out, and Villanova (2-3).

The Missouri Valley's six teams in the Top 25 were the national high. The CAA had the next-highest total with five and the Big Sky Conference had four.

A national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries select the STATS FCS Top 25. In the voting, a first-place vote is worth 25 points, a second-place vote 24 points, all the way down to one point for a 25th-place vote.

The Top 25 is released every Monday afternoon during the regular season, except for Sunday morning, Nov. 22, prior to the selection of the 24-team FCS playoff field. A final Top 25 will follow the FCS championship game, which will be held Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.

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