NATCHITOCHES – Jazz Ferguson pulled in a 6-yard touchdown pass by Shelton Eppler in the second overtime to give Northwestern State a 37-34 win over McNeese here Saturday night and snapping a 13-game losing streak to the Cowboys.
McNeese (6-4, 5-3 SLC) had a chance to win the game in the first OT after NSU kicker Austyn Frederick 30-yard field goal in the first possession. The Cowboys lined up for a 36-yard game-winner but Gunnar Raborn’s kick was blocked by Hayden Bourgeois to send the game into the second overtime.
The Cowboys possessed the ball first to start the second extra frame and Raborn booted through a 38-yard field goal into a steady north wind. NSU wasted little time in its possession as Eppler connected with Ferguson on a 19-yard strike on the first play, then the game-winner on the next play, also to Ferguson.
“This one hurts,” said head coach Lance Guidry. “I feel bad for our guys. I thought we scored enough points to win the game. That’s a tough way to lose a ball game.”
McNeese led 7-0 at the half after quarterback James Tabary entered the game in the second possession of the second quarter and connected with Trevor Begue on a 3-yard back-shoulder completion with 1:14 to play in the half.
The second half was all offense by both teams as opposed to a defensive war in the first half as the two teams combined to score 64 points and 506 of the total offensive output of 722 yards.
“Our offense played really well tonight,” said Guidry. “We had a good game plan and executed it well.”
Tabary completed 15 of 27 passes for 203 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in about 2 ½ quarters of action. His favorite target was Cyron Sutton who caught six passes for 119 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown catch and run, the second-longest offensive score of the season.
Cody Orgeron started the game and threw for 51 yards on 7 of 11 passes, giving McNeese 254 for the game, the second-most passing yards on the season.
NSU (4-6, 3-5) tied the game early in the third quarter on a 19-yard Jared West run to make it 7-7.
After a 25-yard kickoff return by J’Cobi Skinner to the McNeese 39, Tabary connected with Sutton in stride for a 61-yard score to put the Cowboys up 14-7 with 10:52 to play in the third.
The Cowboys' defense held up on the next two Demon possessions, forcing a recovering a fumble on the second drive to set up the McNeese on the NSU 26-yard line with 7:07 to go in the third.
Six plays later, Ryan Ross scored from 2-yards out to put the Cowboys up 21-7 late in the third quarter with 5:10 to play in the third.
NSU responded with a 7-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Eppler to Kalen Meggs with 2:24 to play in the third and cutting the margin to 21-14 then pulled to within 21-17 after a 37-yard field goal by Frederick three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Skinner set the Cowboys up in good field possession with a 39-yard kickoff return and three plays later, Tabary connected with Rodnell Cruell on a 26-yard strike to make it 28-17 with 10:50 to play.
Eppler marched the Demons 75 yards down the field in eight plays, ending with a 2-yard TD pass to Ferguson to pull to within 28-23 but the two-point conversion would fail and keeping the Cowboys with a five-point margin with 7:35 remaining.
McNeese made it an 8-point game following a 27-yard Raborn field goal with 2:27 to play, a score that was set up by a clutch 17-yard Tabary completion to Sutton on 3rd-and-11 and the ball at the NSU 42.
The Demons then got a 41-yard kickoff return by Rashaun Croney to set the drive up a the NSU 44, and with 27 seconds to play, Eppler found Jaylen Watson in the side of the end zone for a touchdown, then hit Ferguson on the 2-point conversion to tie things up and send the game into overtime.
McNeese played the last NSU series of regulation and all of overtime without star linebacker B.J. Blunt who injured his knees on the kickoff after McNeese took a 31-23 lead.
Eppler completed 25 of 46 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns while Ferguson made nine catches for 112 yards and two TDs. Eppler completed 25 of 46 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns while Ferguson made nine catches for 112 yards and two TDs. Ferguson became NSU’s single-season record holder in both receptions and yards with his output.
The Cowboys, who have been eliminated from the Southland Conference title race, will close out the season next Saturday at home against Lamar with a 3 p.m. kickoff.