OSU football: A McNeese State gridiron primer
OSU hosts McNeese State on Saturday night in Stillwater, and the Louisiana Cowboys are not a household name in college football. Before kickoff, here’s a primer on McNeese State football:
Coach: Sterlin Gilbert, 41, is in his first season. Gilbert grew up in San Angelo, Texas, graduated from Angelo State coached at Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green, Tulsa, Texas and South Florida, before getting his first college head coaching job.
Conference: Southland, joined in 1972. The Cowboys have won 16 Southland football titles. McNeese State was a member of the Gulf States League, with many of the current Southland members, from 1952-71.
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Best team: The 1995 Cowboys won 13 straight before losing 25-13 to Marshall in the I-AA semifinals. Along the way, McNeese State beat traditional powers Youngstown State and Delaware.
Stadium: Cowboy Stadium, capacity 17,610, opened in 1965.
Oklahoma connection: Gilbert’s defensive backs coach, Nick Graham, is a 2003 Millwood High School graduate who played at Tulsa, made the NFL and has spent the last three years as an assistant coach at Central Oklahoma.
Bowl history: McNeese played in three Division I bowl games, losing to Southern Miss 16-14 in the 1980 Independence, losing to Syracuse 31-7 in the 1979 Independence and losing to Tulsa 20-16 in the 1976 Independence.
Playoff history: McNeese State 16 times has made the Division I-AA playoffs. The Cowboys made the championship game in 2002, losing to Western Kentucky 34-14, and 1997, losing to Youngstown State 10-9.
Greatest player: Cornerback Leonard Smith, a star in 1982, was a kick blocker extraordinaire and in 1996 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Greatest coach: Bobby Keasler, who went 78-34-2 and won four Southland titles in his nine years (1990-98).
Greatest pro: Defensive tackle Tom Sestak three times made first-team all-AFL with the Buffalo Bills in the 1960s.
Power 5 history: The Cowboys are 0-10 all-time against schools now in Power 5 conferences. They’ve lost twice to Nebraska and once each to Kansas State, Kansas, LSU, Miami, Missouri, North Carolina, Syracuse and Texas A&M.
Notable alum: Long-time Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum is a McNeese State graduate.
University: Founded in 1939, McNeese State has an enrollment of 7,649.
Location: Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lake Charles, a refinery town similar to the southeast Texas towns of Port Arthur and Beaumont, has a metro population of 202,000.