Cowboys head into open weekend ranking high in national statistics

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LAKE CHARLES – Wednesday was the final day of practice for the McNeese Cowboys football team until they regroup on Sunday as the Cowboys, ranked Nos. 21 and 22 in this week’s FCS top 25 polls, will enjoy this Saturday’s open date not only to heal some nagging injuries, but also as one of the top defenses in all of FCS.

“I think it all depends on how the season is going as to where you’d rather have an open date,” said head coach Lance Guidry. “Two years ago, our open date was right before we played Lamar for the last game of the regular season and we were going for a perfect season. So that was a great time to have the open date.

“I think this one falls just right for us because we’re going to be able to get our legs back under us and get some guys healthy as well. We’ve got some tough games coming up starting next week with homecoming, then we go to Central Arkansas, have Southeastern and Northwestern at home and then close out at Lamar.”

The Cowboys (5-1, 3-1 SLC) have won five straight games since dropping the opener at Nicholls and are right in the hunt for their 15th Southland Conference championship.

The old saying is “offense wins games but defense win championships.” If that’s true to this year, McNeese may just be slipping on another ring on that finger.

After a sluggish start to the season, McNeese’s D.W.A. (Defense With Attitude) has established itself as a dominant force in the Southland Conference and one of the top units in the FCS.

Through the first six weeks of the season, the Cowboys’ defense ranks No. 1 in seven statistical categories and in the top three in eight others.

The main stat groups McNeese is tops on include total defense (267.0 ypg allowed), rushing defense (50.5 ypg) and scoring defense (17.3 ppg).

The DWA is ranked third in the FCS in rushing defense, trailing leader Illinois State by less than three yards, while in total defense, McNeese is ranked seventh in the nation.

“Earlier in the year, we got some key guys hurt and some of the younger guys really stepped it up for us,” said Guidry. “Now were getting some veterans back and the young guys are pushing them and making them better, and as a result, our defense is playing much better.”

In the last three conference games, all wins, the Cowboys have allowed just 494 yards combined – a 164.7 yards per game average. McNeese held HBU to 132 total yards, Stephen F. Austin to 224, and just this past Saturday, Abilene Christian to 138.

With a second quarter touchdown, ACU snapped the defense’s streak of nine consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown as that score was just the third rushing TD allowed all season and the 12th overall offensive touchdown.

Also in the last three games, the Cowboys have held their opponents to 12, 0 and 7 points respectively for an average of 6.3 per game and has seen the overall scoring defense average fall from 28.3 through the first three games, to the current average of 17.3.

As well as the defense is playing, the offense has had its time to shine as well.

Quarterback James Tabary leads the conference and is ranked sixth in the FCS with 15 touchdowns thrown, and is ranked third in the league and 25th nationally with 1,348 passing yards.

Running back Justin Pratt tops the league in rushing with 495 yards and an 82.5 yards per game average. He’s coming off his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game at Abilene Christian.

David Hamm is sixth in the conference in rushing with a 61.2 per game average and is fifth with 367 total rushing yards.

Team Defense Rankings (SLC/FCS)
Total Defense (1/7)
Rushing Defense (1/3)
Scoring Defense (1/18)
3rd Down Conversion Defense (1/11)
Interceptions (1/24)
Red-Zone Defense (1/8)
Sacks (1/17)
Blocked Kicks (2/5)
Blocked Punts (2/4)
First Downs Defense (2/30)
Fumbles Recovered (2/15)
Passing Efficiency Defense (2/25)
Tackles For Loss (2/16)
Turnovers Gained (2/15)

Team Offense Rankings (SLC/FCS)
Turnover Margin (1/15)
Time Of Possession (1/2)
4th Down Conversion (2/9)
Passes Had Intercepted (2/53)
3rd Down Conversion (3/30)
Completion Percentage (3/30)
Rushing Offense (3/32)

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