The McNeese State Cowboys have always been the “underdog”. That’s something that’s nothing new to the Cowboys. With their fourth coach in five years, change is something they know well. New Head Coach Gary Goff is excited to be in the city of Lake Charles and finally playing under the stadium lights. After hurricanes Laura and Delta shredded the area in 2020, the Cowboys have been playing all home games at noon. From the pandemic to the hurricanes, the area has been through some of the hardest times. But Coach Goff was up for the challenge and has established a winning culture ever since stepping foot on the campus. He has been establishing a culture, and the players have bought in.
Gary Goff comes to McNeese after he led Valdosta State to the program’s sixth NCAA National Championship appearance on Dec. 18, 2021 and back-to-back Gulf South Conference titles in his two playing seasons as head coach in Titletown (three overall seasons). He finished his VSU career with a 22-3 record. He also coached eight seasons at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio, and is 60-53 in 10 playing seasons of coaching. The Blazers finished the 2021 season with a 12-2 record overall, falling in the NCAA Division II National Title to Ferris State. VSU went 6-1 in the Gulf South Conference, sharing the league title with West Florida. Goff was named GSC Coach of the Year for the second time in 2021, as he was Co-GSC Coach of the Year in 2019.
This past season, the Blazers placed 17 players on the All-GSC team including nine on the first unit. Valdosta led the NCAA in total offense for the season, averaging 527.2 yards per game, was second in rushing (267.0, 5th in NCAA) and third in passing (260.2, 30th in NCAA). Defensively, the Blazers led the league in passing defense (159.9), sixth in rushing defense (188.3) and third in total defense (348.2). Additionally, VSU averaged 43.2 points per game (2nd in the GSC, 5th NCAA) while allowing just 22.7 points to rank third in the conference. His team this past season included three Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association (D2CCCA) All-Americans - offensive lineman Ralph Singleton (1st team), linebacker Nick Moss (1st team), and defensive lineman Brian Williams (2nd team). Singleton also garnered first team AP All-America honors while Moss earned AP second team honors. VSU also ranked No. 3 in the NCAA with 320 first downs made, seventh with four defensive TDs scored, seventh in 3rd-down conversion percentage (.500), fourth in red-zone offense percentage (.929), first in sacks allowed per game (0.15), and ninth in tackles for loss allowed per game (3.31). In 2019 he led the Blazers to a season of 10-1 and 8-0 in Gulf South Conference play, earning Gulf South Conference Co-Coach of the Year honors. Goff continued the outstanding tradition of VSU football as the Blazers won their first ten games of the season, ranked No. 1 nationally throughout the regular season and a berth in the second round of the NCAA Division II Football playoffs.
Goff coached a league-best 13 All-GSC selections in 2019 and GSC Offensive Player of the Year Rogan Wells. Wells earned American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America honors, was a finalist for the prestigious Harlon Hill Trophy and recently named the GSC Offensive Player of the Decade. Along with Wells, senior offensive linemen Adonis Sealey and Brandon Kemp earned All-America honors. Junior long snapper Pippin Davis was named Second Team Academic All-America ®by CoSIDA. Kemp signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Tennessee Titans of the NFL in April.
Under Goff’s guidance, the Blazers continued their outstanding offensive play as the team finished second nationally in third down conversion percentage at a .528 clip. The Blazers were fourth nationally in completion percentage (.701), while finishing 14th nationally in first downs gained (276). VSU was 11th nationally in rushing offense at 260.2 yards on the ground per game, while it was 12th nationally in passing efficiency at 162.12. VSU finished third nationally in total offense at 522.1 yards per game, while finishing 20th nationally in scoring offense at 38.9 points per game.
The Blazers also were outstanding on defense as the team was 32nd nationally in total defense, allowing 311.5 yards per game and held teams to a 111.71 passing efficiency for 33rd nationally out of 166 NCAA Division II programs. The Blazer defense held teams to 124.4 yards per game on the ground for 44th nationally. The opposition scored just 18.5 points per game on the Blazers for 23rd nationally and tops in the conference.
The Cowboys will have an entire new look offense in which Goff brings with him. Goff said it would be an air-raid offense that relied on the play of the veteran-laden offensive line. Said that winning starts up front. Also for the first time in a very long time, the Cowboys will have a quarterback battle. With incumbent Cody Orgeron graduated and coaching now, the position is up for grabs. Coach Goff is excited for the battle in fall camp. The Cowboys have added former Virginia Tech transfer Knox Kadum. Valdosta State University transfer offensive lineman Richard LeClair has reunited with his head coach in Lake Charles as well.
Joining Goff today was redshirt sophomore wide receiver/return specialist Mason Pierce and senior defensive linemen C.J. Semien. Both agreed that culture is very important to them. Semien, from Barbe High School outlined how the Cowboys will fill the shoes of two time Buck Buchanan Award finalist Isaiah Chambers. He stated that it was big shoes to fill, but they were up for it. He said they're planning on working together as a unit. It’s not going to be just one player, it’ll be an entire unit. The cohesiveness is what Semien reiterated. When speaking on the new offense, Pierce stated “I’m really excited about the offense, brought in my type of style.” And speaking on Goff, Pierce stated “He really brings this team together.” This is something that all players past and present have said about Goff. He genuinely appreciates the players.
When asked about the Cowboys schedule, Goff said “The Cowboys will learn a lot from #2 Montana State and it's exactly where McNeese wants to be. The goal is for McNeese to be their best and let the cards fall where they may.” He also said that everyone is their rival and that having the rivalry back with Lamar University is a huge thing for not only the Cowboys but the entire league. Pierce is excited and is glad to not play early in the day in the heat. Semien is excited for the electricity of gameday. Goff also joked about tailgate food and how great it’s going to be before their games.
The Cowboys will open their 2022 season against the #2 Montana State Bobcats in Bozeman on Saturday, September, 3, 2022.