Kansas coach Turner Gill talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 42-24 victory over McNeese State on Sept. 3, 2011.
McNeese State’s football players didn’t gift-wrap a victory for their head coach Saturday on his 48th birthday.
The Cowboys of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) did give Matt Viator the next best thing to a ‘W,’ however: a gutsy, competitive performance in a 42-24 season-opening loss to Football Bowl Subdivision member Kansas University at Memorial Stadium.
“I like the effort. I really do. But we came here to win the game and didn’t get it done. I quit counting birthdays years ago,” Viator said after watching his Cowboys gain 420 yards to KU’s 447.
A year ago, KU fell to FCS school North Dakota State, 6-3, in the first game of the Turner Gill era.
“I didn’t mention it, because I thought that would work to our disadvantage. I guarantee you coach Gill was talking about that every day, and everything I read, every player talked about it,” Viator said.
“I thought it worked a little bit to our disadvantage in a sense ... look at what Kansas did today. Look what Virginia Tech did today to Appalachian State (66-13 victory after losing to James Madison a year ago). It’s one of those things that slipped up on Kansas last year. I knew coach Gill was going to have them ready this year.”
Viator said Gill outsmarted his Cowboys in one regard.
“One thing I thought Kansas did a great job of was no-huddle (offense). That’s something new that they got us with,” he said. “We didn’t practice it a snap because they didn’t do it last year.
“Kansas did to us tonight what we feared — run the football (301 rushing yards).”
Viator had no complaints about a 39-yard, game-tying touchdown being erased when it was deemed his team threw an illegal forward pass with his squad down, 7-0. Instant replay showed that two forward passes were attempted on the score.
“Chalk that up to replay,” he said. “That’s a touchdown in our league (where there’s no replay). They never showed the replay (on scoreboard). I’m not going to gripe about that. I’m sure they (officials) took their time and looked at it. I’m sure it was two forward (passes).”
The Cowboys had success using two quarterbacks. Riley Dodge threw for 107 yards and a TD and rushed for 45 yards. Cody Stroud threw for 218 yards and a TD.
“I thought our offensive line held up all night. I think we’re going to be pretty special,” Dodge said.