Little at stake in Battle of Border
Published 1:17 am Saturday, November 19, 2016
Lamar football coach Ray Woodard has been asked before if he’s on the hot seat.
He’s never acknowledged such as the case, and he didn’t seem worried about it earlier this week. It’s not his belief a win today at McNeese State will calm fears about his job security.
“That’s not what this game is about,” said Woodard, who has a 34-45 record in seven seasons. “I really don’t think — I may be wrong because I can’t speak for other people — but I don’t think this game will make a difference, one way or another. That’s just how I feel, but we’ll see.”
The litmus test of Lamar’s support may have been last week’s announced attendance of 5,566 in the home finale against Incarnate Word — which ended in a fourth straight loss. It’s the lowest home attendance for the Cardinals on record since 2011.
They failed to reach 10,000 in a single home game after drawing 13,136 to the Oct. 1, 2015, Abilene Christian game, the one where Kade Harrington set a Southland record of 347 rushing yards.
But Harrington, like several key cogs, have been sidelined by injury this season, maybe a major factor in the struggles of this season’s Cardinals (3-7, 3-5 Southland).
As they wind down their sixth losing record in seven years, they’re left without the opportunity to reach a climax in the season. For consolation, they can deny McNeese State (5-5, 4-4), the defending Southland Conference champion which has underwhelmed in Lance Guidry’s first season as head coach, a winning record of their own and win in Lake Charles for the second straight time. That would give the Cardinals much-needed bragging rights in the offseason.
HOW THINGS CHANGE
Few if any would have thought less than a month ago the season would end with a freshman quarterback and two freshman running backs starting at Lamar. But Adam Morse, Austin Krautz and Kendrick King, all Jefferson County products, have embraced their roles.
“He’s been everything I thought he would be,” said senior cornerback Brendan Langley, the Southland’s leader in interceptions with six. “People don’t see the hard work that goes into it, but every day in practice, I personally see the guy with a very strong arm who can get [the ball] into those tight windows. He did it a couple of times in practice.”
The story of the season would probably result in a different cliffhanger to today’s game with a little more fortune in health.
Harrington, Lamar’s all-time leading rusher, saw his college career end with a torn ligament in his left foot in a comeback win against Northwestern State. The next week, senior quarterback Carson Earp was knocked out with a shoulder injury at Central Arkansas. The week after that, junior Andrew Allen injured his collarbone and freshman Case Robinson broke a bone in his throwing hand, prompting Morse to lift his redshirt.
“I think it’s good to get that experience early on in your career,” Morse said. “I’m sure further on I’m going to face the same adversity.”
The offensive line has been beaten up all season. Senior Bret Treadway, a preseason All-American, came back from a bout with nucleosis but has missed some time due to injury, as has John Craven and Matthew Oubre.
Redshirt freshman running back Derrion Randle and sophomore cornerback Rodney Randle are also out.
JUST THEIR LUCK
On the field, Lamar has lost four straight, but three were determined by 10 points or less.
McNeese State has failed to live up to expectations after going 10-0 in the 2015 regular season, but Arkansas State transfer James Tabary has steadily climbed up the school’s single-season passing charts. With 2,801 yards, he needs 267 to beat Blake Prejean’s record from 1997.
Defensively, the Cowboys have scored three touchdowns this year, leading the Southland and ranking sixth in all the FCS in that category. Defensive lineman Jammerio Gross has collected 7.5 sacks this season.
Morse and Krautz will line up across another Mid-County Madness veteran in former Nederland quarterback Sage Seay, who is a true sophomore linebacker for the Cowboys. Seay has had a quiet season with seven tackles in five games after totaling 13 stops in nine games last season.
The Battle of the Border, Morse said, is similar to Mid-County Madness.
“It’s right across the border,” Morse said. “The state line is right there, 30 minutes away. It’s a big game for Lamar and McNeese. They always play the last game of the year, the biggest game for us in the conference, I would say. It’s a big rivalry, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews
SOUTHLAND FOOTBALL: LAMAR (3-7) AT McNEESE STATE (5-5)
• When: 6 tonight
• Where: Cowboy Stadium, Lake Charles
• Webcast/Radio: McNeeseSports.com/KLVI-AM 560
• Southland records: Lamar 3-5, McNeese State 4-4
• Series record: McNeese State leads 25-13-1; last meeting McNeese won 20-14 in Beaumont in 2015