GAME PREVIEW: McNeese State (0-0) at Tarleton State (0-0)
When: Saturday, February 13
Where: Memorial Stadium, Stephenville, TX
TV/Streaming: Fox Sports Southwest Plus (Fox Sports GO)
Game Notes: McNeese State | Tarleton State
Tarleton State and McNeese State will play the first game of the spring FCS season that was moved due to COVID-related concerns last fall. Most FCS programs across the country chose to delay the season to the spring semester. Twelve of the 13 conferences and 75 percent of the teams are playing with a reduced 16-team playoff bracket to cap off what will be an unorthodox season. The game between the Texans and Cowboys will be the only FCS game this weekend.
McNeese State Cowboys (7-5, 5-4 in Southland) in 2019
When head coach Sterlin Gilbert left to become Syracuse’s new offensive coordinator, McNeese hired ex-UTSA coach Frank Wilson to take over. He inherits a loaded offense that returns quarterback Cody Orgeron, the son of LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who threw for 2,628 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2019. Orgeron’s top target – Trevor Begue (55 rec, 827 yards, 10 TDs) is back, as is running back Elijah Mack (533 rushing yards). The Cowboys graduated 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Chris Livings, but defensive end Isaiah Chambers, a graduate transfer from the University of Houston, will lead the defense. Chambers saw limited action in 2019, but he was one of the Cougars’ most productive players down the stretch, finishing with five sacks – three coming against Tulsa – and six tackles for loss.
Tarleton State Texans (11-1, 8-0 in Lone Star Conference – Division II) in 2019
The Tarleton State Texans, led by 11th year head coach Todd Whitten, are coming off an 11-1 season in their final year of NCAA Division II competition in 2019. The Texans joined the WAC – and they have completed back-to-back undefeated regular seasons, returning 40 lettermen from last year’s team. The D-II powerhouse that rolled through the 2019 season before getting knocked out of the playoffs should once again have a high-powered offense that can do a little of everything right. Former star QB Ben Holmes is long gone, but Todd Whitten has a good base to work around with running back Kahlil Banks and Western Kentucky transfer quarterback Steven Duncan – and there’s also Adams State (DII) All-American wide receiver Tariq Bitson to throw to.
Both teams have a whole bunch of rebuilding to do, but Tarleton State has more key parts to replace. McNeese State has had a challenging offseason to say the least – the team, the stadium, and the city of Lake Charles have had to rebuild after two hurricanes hit the region just six weeks apart. They even lost their defensive coordinator just a week ago to an FBS job. But the Cowboys edge the Texans in a close contest.