Monroe ready for the Dome

by Michael Dougherty

Right now, it’s possible Satan is strapping on a pair of ice skates. He might even be doing a Kristi Yamaguchi-like triple lutz down there. Hell just froze over.
Yes, it’s true someone has actually said, “I’m really excited about playing in the Dome,” — a statement that induced a cold front down below.
The someone who uttered his fondness for the Dome is Louisiana-Monroe’s first-year coach Bobby Keasler. The words of praise are something that haven’t been heard around these parts in quite a while.
Red McCombs and his Vikings have declared the Dome does not generate enough income, and they need a new stadium or the Vikings will be gone in five years. Carl Pohlad and the Twins have tried everything but hire moving trucks to show their displeasure with the homer Dome.
The Indians — who changed their name two weeks ago from Northeast Louisiana to Louisiana-Monroe — have played the Gophers only once before, a 30-3 Minnesota win in 1996. The Indians are coming to town on the heels of a 27-10 win at home against Nicholls State.
Louisiana-Monroe made the jump from Division I-AA to Division I-A in 1994. Keasler said that change coupled with his hiring after last season has forced the team to do quite a bit of adapting.
Keasler was asked if he thought his team was living up to the loftier expectations of a D-I team.
“I think we have a ways to go, and with the coaching change we’ve had to start all over again,” Keasler said. “To be on the same page of a team like Minnesota — we’re a ways away from that.”
Although Keasler said the Indians aren’t on the same page as the Gophers in reference to competition, some of the pages from their playbook seem to be quite similar.
Both teams stack the line with eight-man fronts defensively, and they both like to run one-back offenses with three- and four-receiver formations.
Gophers coach Glen Mason and his team are trying to figure out how the Indians tick with only one game film — the Nicholls State game.
“From what I’ve seen, I think their guys are more athletic (than last week’s opponent, Ohio),” Mason said. “Their defensive ends really look like athletic guys, which is kind of like us.”
Mason is talking about senior bookends Jonathan Foster (6 feet 2 inches, 260 pounds) and Eric Jones (6 feet 3 inches, 260 pounds). Both players made two tackles-for-loss in the Nicholls State game, a game that didn’t start out too promising for the Indians.
Nicholls State took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead. But the Indians, led by Foster and Jones, buckled down and limited Nicholls State to just 78 yards during the rest of the game.
Despite his defense’s strong showing against Nicholls State, Keasler said Minnesota presents a lot more problems than the Colonels.
“They’ve got quite a few weapons on offense, especially that quarterback,” Keasler said of Gophers signal-caller Billy Cockerham. “He’s such a great athlete and we’re concerned about him coming out of the pocket because he’s got great speed.”
Cockerham came out of the pocket 14 times last Saturday for 59 yards and two scores, and he also threw for a career-high 212 yards. Another performance like that from the senior quarterback could change Keasler’s excitement about coming up to the Dome.
Michael Dougherty covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]