McNeese wraps up a three-game road trip on Saturday at Eastern Illinois of the Ohio Valley Conference, and the Cowboys are looking to leave O’Brien Field with their first win of the season.
Gary Goff’s squad will be taking on a Panthers squad that is off to a 2-1 start to the season and is coming off an exciting 14-13 win over arch-rival No. 25-ranked Illinois State. Even though the Panthers were outgained by the Redbirds 342-291, a missed extra point proved to be the difference. Eastern Illinois is off to its best start since 2016.
It is the second straight season and fourth time overall that the two teams are meeting, with McNeese leading the series 3-0 including a 29-15 win in Lake Charles in 2022.
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS
Eastern Illinois has only won a national championship in football once (1978 Division II title) but that hasn’t stopped the program from producing several Super Bowl champions and franchise NFL quarterbacks. Two-time Super Bowl championship coach Mike Shanahan (Class of 1974) began his career as a player before an injury ended his career and he switched to coaching. Sean Payton (Class of 1987) was a record-setting quarterback before transitioning into coaching. Jimmy Garoppolo was an All-American who won the Walter Payton Award, a pair of two Super Bowls as Tom Brady’s backup, and then started in another with the San Francisco 49ers. Also, Tony Romo (Class of 2003) was an All-American and Walter Payton Award winner who rewrote the record books and became a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Both Romo and Payton’s numbers have been retired.
A DAUNTING DEFENSE
Eastern Illinois has been a force to be reckoned with on defense this season, as the Panthers are giving up only 17 points and 240.3 total yards per game. The Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the FCS in total turnovers (10) interceptions (7), and defensive touchdowns (2). McNeese meanwhile enters the game struggling on offense averaging 14.7 points and 204.7 total yards per game. Eastern Illinois doesn’t get a ton of pressure on the quarterback with only three sacks, but McNeese has already given up 12 sacks. The Cowboys will need to handle the pressure and probably do so with quick short throws to keep the Panthers off-balanced.
LOOKING TO AVOID 0-4
McNeese has a proud tradition of success on the gridiron having won 519 games, holding a winning percentage of 62 percent, 16 FCS Playoff appearances, and finished as national runner-up twice. Even though the Cowboys have begun the season 0-3 for the second straight year, it is just the sixth time it has occurred in school history. The other times came in 1975, 1970, 1954 and 1949. A road victory against Eastern Illinois would also help McNeese avoid its first 0-4 start since 1954. That season the Cowboys started 0-4 and finished 2-8 overall.
Nate Glantz: 34-of-72, 355 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
D’angelo Durham: 35 carries, 168 yards, TD
Jalen Johnson: 8 receptions, 62 yards
Micah Davey: 43 tackles (24 solo)
Garrison Smith: 3-of-4 field goals, Long of 50
Pierce Holley: 76-of-111, 785 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT
Kevin Daniels: 39 carries, 165 yards, 0 TD
Eli Mirza: 14 receptions, 149 yards, 0 TD
Elijawah Tolbert: 28 tackles, 2 TFL, INT
Julian Patino: 1-of-1 field goals, Long of 31