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Football Gold
8/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
Football Gold

Calling all football fans! It’s that time of year again and this issue is for you. Pick up a copy, pull out your team jerseys, and put on your game face. These stories will get you excited for the 2019-2020 gridiron season. In this year’s Football Gold cover section, you’ll find updates and schedules on your favorite Louisiana teams, bios of local athletes currently in the NFL, and a rundown on where to watch the big games. 


New Orleans Saints; Third Time’s the Charm


For the past two seasons, my pre-season Super Bowl pick has been Saints v. Patriots, and if not for two plays, I’d probably have been spot on. In the 2018 playoffs, the 11-5 Saints went to Minnesota and had the Vikings back on their heels and beaten. Down 24-23, the Vikings had the ball 3rd & 10 on their own 39 with only ten seconds. Out of timeouts, anything short of a touchdown on this play would nearly ensure the Saints heading to Philly to play the overachieving Eagles.


And then Case Keenum threw up a prayer, Stefon Diggs made a miracle catch, and Marcus Williams, poor Marcus Williams, made perhaps the worst tackle attempt in history. Game over, Saints lose 29-24. The Vikings went on to lose to the Eagles, who would then embarrass Brady and company in Super Bowl LII.


But the Saints bounced back  last season went 13-3, had the number 1 seed in the playoffs, and . . . I’m sure the rest is still fresh in everyone’s mind. They attempted to change the pass interference replay rule in the offseason. Fans petition that the game be replayed. Refs who weren’t even at the game were fingered in the conspiracy. Needless to say, it got ugly.And in the offseason, the Saints got better.


The only major loss in the offseason might have been Mark Ingram, but that’s really addition by subtraction. Even before the Saints drafted Alvin Kamara two years ago, the writing was on the wall in a lot of ways for Ingram. He showed signs of new life having to compete with Kamara, but that also became somewhat of a detriment as Kamara continued to improve in his second year. No longer having a 1a/1b running back scenario will only make this team better and allow Kamara to continue to cement his place as the most versatile back in the league. At the same time, the Saints brought in Latavius Murray, who is a solid back-up to spell Kamara on 3rd down plays when needed.


The X-factor addition is Jared Cook at tight-end. A journeyman tight-end who’s played for Tennessee, St. Louis, Oakland, and Green Bay, he’s been productive everywhere he’s been. On the flipside, it could be argued that the Saints’ down-years began when they started taking away Brees’ favorite weapons, i.e. Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. He’s now got his type of running back with Kamara doing an even better Sproles 2.0. If Cook can become even Jimmy Graham lite, this offense could be unstoppable.


And let’s not forget Michael Thomas, who is quietly becoming the best wide receiver in the game.

The defensive side of the ball is solid as well, boasting the number 2 rush defense last season, and bringing back bruisers like Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Vonn Bell, and Marshon Lattimore. While in today’s NFL they’re bound to be in a few shootouts throughout the season, this defense should be more than capable of holding teams down if it stays healthy.


So, before the window closes completely and Drew officially passes the torch to Zion and the Benson family switches priorities to the Pelicans, give it to me one more time: Saints v. Patriots in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning it all. 


2019 SCHEDULE


Pre-Season:


  8/9 | 7:00 PM Vikings

8/18 | 1:00 PM @Chargers

8/24 | 7:30 PM @Jets

8/29 | 7:00 PM Dolphins


Regular Season:


    9/9 | 7:10 PM Texans

  9/15 | 4:25 PM @Rams

  9/22 | 4:25 PM @Seahawks

  9/29 | 8:20 PM Cowboys

  10/6 | 1:00 PM Buccaneers

10/13 | 1:00 PM @Jaguars

10/20 | 4:25 PM @Bears

10/27 | 1:00 PM Cardinals

        11/03 |  BYE WEEK

11/10 | 1:00 PM Falcons

11/17 | 1:00 PM @Buccaneers

11/24 | 1:00 PM Panthers

11/28 | 8:20 PM @Falcons

          12/8 | 1:00 PM 49ers

        12/16 | 8:15 PM Colts

        12/22 | 1:00 PM @Titans

        12/29 | 1:00 PM @panthers



McNeese Cowboys: A New Era


New McNeese head coach Sterling Gilbert has a smoldering fire effect to him. He’s not the in your face, loud, rah-rah-sis-boom-bah type. But there’s an intelligence and intensity behind those eyes, and even without being the biggest personality, he’s impossible to mistake in a room.


After the wheels came off the horse last season with McNeese losing four of its last five games after starting 5-1, a change was in the wind. Coach Lance Guidry was gone, and an expected long coaching search was on the horizon. But the administration knew whom they wanted, and in less than two weeks, the Cowboys had a new leader.


Surprisingly, Gilbert breaks the string of Louisiana coaches that have graced the halls of McNeese football, and brings a different pedigree to the table. A former Texas college standout quarterback and much sought after offensive coordinator, Gilbert has worked with such quarterback talents as current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and served the last few seasons under Charlie Strong, at Texas and then at USF.


That said, his message is pretty familiar to those of us in Southwest Louisiana. "It’s about family,” Gilbert tells the team. "When I say la familia, you’re gonna get up, and you’re gonna hug two people, and you’re going to say, ‘count on me.’” Gilbert also isn’t confused about what’s made McNeese great for so long. "When I was playing at Angelo State, I always heard those guys talking about playing McNeese and how tough it was and coming down and getting beat on.”


In addition to a new coaching staff, McNeese will also embark on the start of a new era as Cody Orgeron finally takes his place as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys. Seen by many last season as the better option behind center, Orgeron waited his turn behind senior QB James Tabray, who started the season at a blistering pace before being hampered by injuries.


Orgeron should be well-supported with returning receivers such as Cyron Sutton, Trevor Begue, and Nate Briscoe. Unfortunately, perhaps the saddest news coming out of pre-season was learning that Parker Orgeron, Cody’s older brother and standout wide receiver, would no longer be able to play football due to health reasons. There’s a special alternate timeline where we all get to enjoy the Orgeron to Orgeron connection. Best of wishes to Parker as he joins the team as a graduate assistant.


There’s a lot riding on this new era, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be all high flying offensive ball. This McNeese defense still plans to be hard hitting, led by senior defensive end Chris Livings. A Lake Charles native and former Barbe standout, Livings is just 10.5 sacks away from the school record and only needs half a tackle for loss to move into the school’s Top 10.


Cody Roscoe, Darion Dunn, and Jovon Burriss should be other leaders to watch on a defense that looks to get back to their head knockin’ ways. Coach Gilbert and company will have their work cut out for them as the Southland Conference continues to improve across the board, making it one of the most competitive conferences in FCS ball.


Perennial bottom-dwellers Nicholls and Incarnate Word, who didn’t even have a football program ten years ago, tied for a share of the Southland Conference Championship last year, showing the parity that now exists in the conference. Even cross border rivals Lamar, who were 2-9 in 2017, improved to 7-5 last year, while usual powerhouses such as Central Arkansas and Sam Houston were right there in the middle of the pack with McNeese at 6-5.


And don’t think McNeese boosters aren’t aware McNeese’s last playoff win was all the way back in 2002. Looking at the schedule, things don’t look at all like an easy path for Coach Gilbert’s head coaching debut.


McNeese starts with three non-conference games, all quality, with both Southern and Alcorn State coming to Cowboy Stadium, and a match-up at Oklahoma State in between. Then it’s non-stop conference action, starting on the road against Abilene Christian and ending with a two-game road stint at Nicholls and then Lamar.


There’s too much uncertainty to make a steadfast prediction, but McNeese has all the talent to win the Southland this year . . . but it seems so do a lot of teams. Get ready for an exciting season as we move into the Sterling Gilbert era!


2019 SCHEDULE


   8/31  | 6:00 pm Southern U.

         9/7  | 6:00 pm @Oklahoma

    9/14 | 6:00 pm Alcorn St.

   9/21  | 6:00 pm @ACU

   9/28  | 6:00pm Sam Houston

           10/5  | 4:00 pm Southeastern LA

         10/12  |  4:00 PM @Central Arkansas

         10/19  |  4:00 PM HBU

         10/26  |  3:00 PM @SFA

           11/2  |  4:00 pm Northwest St.

         11/16  |  3:00 PM    @Nicholls St

         11/23  |  3:00 PM @Lamar



LSU Tigers; One Game to Rule Them All


Coming into last season, Coach Orgeron couldn’t have been in a hotter seat. After a dismal first year that saw him replacing innovative offensive coordinator Matt Canada with former LSU quarterback and then tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, as well as losing to Troy – yes, Troy, you haven’t blocked that out, have you – many fans were questioning whether giving Orgeron the full-time position was the smart move.


Enter Joe Burrows, a transfer from Ohio State, who put up passing numbers last season that hadn’t been seen since the days of Mettenberger. All of the sudden, it seemed that maybe LSU’s offense had finally transitioned to the passing attack of the 21st century, and behind Burrows’ arm, they won 10 of 13 games, and finished two plays from winning two more: a stop against Florida, and that wild 7 overtime game against Texas A&M that someone had to lose.


The real lone blemish on the schedule? You guessed it. Alabama. 29-0. In Death Valley. Regardless, unlike last season, expectations for this season are sky high, and Coach O is quite aware. "The first thing we have to do is block out the noise . . . when we get back to camp, we have to forget all of that.” Coach O will admit that he let the criticism last year light a little bit of a fire under him. "It was an internal motivation, there’s no question about that.”


Looking forward to this season, one of the most interesting additions to the team is on the coaching staff. New passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Joe Brady comes from spending the past two years with the Saints and looks to help supplement Ensminger’s offense with more of the Run Pass Option that Joe Burrows was familiar with during his time in Ohio.


That also means that yes, we will see a new look offense, one that Coach O said will look to take deep shots at least eight times a game. Eight!We aren’t too far removed from the days when LSU refused to take a deep shot even once a game!


In addition, the offense brings back eight starters, and instead of being overly blown away by the running game this year, get ready to know your wide receivers. Joe Brady didn’t just leave the Saints for no reason. Justin Jefferson was just two receptions off Jarvis Landry’s sophomore season pace, while eclipsing both Landry and OBJ in TDs in the same stretch. In addition, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall should be looking to catch fire.


On the defensive side of the ball, few come better than coordinator Dave Aranda, and he’s got what Coach O might be calling the best secondary he’s ever seen, led by Grant Delpit at safety. Look for freshman Derek Stingley to make an immediate impact at corner, as well.


2019 SCHEDULE


8/31  |  6:30 pm GA Southern

  9/7  |  6:30 pm @Texas

  9/14  |   6:30 pm Northwest St.

9/21  |  TBA @Vanderbilt 

10/5 |  TBA Utah St.

      10/12  |  TBA Florida

      10/19  |  TBA @MS State

      10/26  |  TBA Auburn

        11/9  |  TBA @ALABAMA

       11/16 |  TBA @OLD MISS

        1/23  |  TBA Arkansas

      11/30  |  TBA Texas A&M



LSU Builds Impressive New Addition to Training Facility 


Not only is LSU updating its game on the field, but it’s also looking to compete with Alabama when it comes to giving players the best amenities on the planet.The new look digs, which cost nearly $23 million and adds 25,000 square feet to the already impressive layout, has a new locker room, meeting room, cafeteria, and pods where the players can lay out and watch film or take a nap between classes.

These new looks are going to be hard for future recruits to ignore.


Matt Dye is the creator and host of The Tailgate Kings, a sports talk and food show that airs Sunday mornings from 8-11 on Rock 101.3. He is also a professor of English at SOWELA and an award-winning actor around town. He’s been known to accept whiskey or wine in gratitude, but never both at the same time.

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