Defensive end Chris Livings of McNeese State is a local kid, hailing from Lake Charles, La. But he’s becoming more of a transplant since he’s increasingly establishing residence in opponents’ backfields.
Just this year, the sophomore has 31 tackles, nine of which have been for a loss, including four sacks.
As solid as he’s been, outstanding defense is an expected part of a day’s work for the perennial Southland power. This year, despite a 4-4 mark McNeese defenders have posted 40 tackles for loss, good for 118 yards. They’ve sacked opposing quarterbacks 12 times, intercepted five passes for 124 yards, forced five fumbles, and amassed 473 tackles while their opponents have needed over 600 to keep the Cowboys’ offense at bay.
McNeese’s defense is informally dubbed “D.W.A.” or “Defense With Attitude” and it’s been the moniker of a traditionally stout Cowboys unit for several years. First-year head coach and former McNeese standout Lance Guidry was happy to see it re-emerge earlier this month when his team held Nicholls to 13 points in a 38-13 victory. In that game the Cowboys made four tackles in the Colonels’ backfield and Livings delivered a key hit on freshman quarterback Chase Fourcade as part of a dominating overall performance.
“We kind of bowed up our neck a little bit. Our defensive front played a little bit possessed, and that was good to see. D.W.A. was coming back to the old form. Which was really good,” Guidry said after the game. “I think we’ve got confidence on defense again.”
Junior linebacker Ashari Goins said in any given week, “We feel you can put us up against anyone in the country.”
That defensive front will be challenged this Saturday by a deceptively dangerous Abilene Christian offense that is obscured behind a 1-7 mark. ACU quarterback Dallas Sealey is one of the conference’s best, and will press the Cowboys both in the air and through his running talents on Saturday on ASN.
ACU is coming off a strong performance against UIW in which the offense put up 52 points en route to a 52-27 victory. In that game Sealey threw for five touchdowns in an upset win over the Cardinals to garner Southland player of the week honors. He’s the teams second leading rusher and has twisted, dodged and sprinted for 283 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.
Ultimately Saturday’s game will be decided by the Cowboys defense, however. Its ability to reassert its dominance, and attitude, of recent years will prove the difference.
Senior defensive lineman Jake Grode aptly summed up his unit’s pride, and drive, that will be tested on Saturday. “It’s all about being better than the other team across from you, and our defense being better than their defense.”