LAKE CHARLES — A week after picking up a big paycheck, McNeese State is back to finding out if a game against the big boys has paid off.
The Cowboys (1-1) return home for a game back on their level, playing SWAC champion Alcorn State Saturday night.
McNeese has already beaten last year’s SWAC runner-up Southern in the season opener, but was toppled by Power 5 Oklahoma State out of the Big 12 last weekend. Now comes Alcorn (1-1), a solid football team with talent that will test the Cowboys just seven days before they open play in the Southland Conference.
“We are ready to get back and show what we are capable of doing,” said McNeese quarterback Cody Oregon. “It will be nice to get back to playing at home after the great atmosphere at Oklahoma State.”
The Cowboys are looking to pick up their offense as they head into conference games.
“We are really focused in on this week,” said head coach Sterin Gilbert. “We are looking at what we do more than anything else. We worry about playing McNeese football.”
This will be the best test to date for the new fast-paced offense Gilbert brought with him to town. It wasn’t all in place when McNeese opened against Southern, and it’s hard to tell against a higher-level foe like OSU.
Alcorn, which the Cowboys beat two years ago in Lake Charles 34-27, should be a pretty good measuring stick.
“They are a very good football team with a lot of talent,” said Gilbert. “This will be a good game to show us who we are and where we are.”
Where the Cowboys want to be is in the Southland Conference title hunt and national playoff race. For that, this is a big game.
McNeese hopes to get a balanced attack. So far this year the Cowboys are averaging 74 plays a game. They would like to be closer to 90 if possible.
And while they have run for 315 yards in the two games, 122 of that has come from Orgeron. Justin Pratt leads the running backs with 69 yards.
Orgeron has only thrown for an average of 149 yards.
“We are looking to throw the ball down field,” Orgeron said. “We are taking what the defense is giving us, but I think big plays are coming.”
That might help open things up for the running game.
McNeese has forced six turnovers so far this season, five of those coming against Southern. It is something the Cowboys look for.
“We put a lot of emphasis on the football,” said Gilbert. “We want to get it when on defense and we don’t want to give it up on offense.”
Leading the Braves’ attack is duel-threat quarterback Noah Johnson, who runs a lot of read options like Orgeron.
Alcorn also has a pair of runners who are over 100 yards on the season, Mike Duffey (163) and De’Shawn Waller (127).
“We are going to have to stay disciplined on defense and try not to give up the big plays,” said Gilbert.
Kickoff for the game is set for 6 p.m.