18th-ranked Cowboys overpower Lions 58-14 in home opener - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

18th-ranked Cowboys overpower Lions 58-14 in home opener

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McNeese rolled up 528 offensive yards and had a big second quarter scoring output for the second consecutive week as the 18th-ranked Cowboys cruised past Arkansas-Pine Bluff by a 58-14 score in the home opener in front of 15,217.

McNeese (2-0) topped the 50-point mark for the second straight game for the first time since the 2008 season after it opened the season with a 53-21 win at South Florida last week. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-2) allowed 50 or more for the second straight week after falling 62-11 last week at Arkansas State.

The Cowboys put up a balanced attack on offense with 263 yards rushing and 265 passing and scored 23 second quarter points to help pull away early on. Last week, McNeese scored 31 points in the second quarter at South Florida to help build a big halftime lead.

Marcus Wiltz led all rushers with 115 yards on 12 carries with a career-high three touchdowns. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry and had four of his 12 rushes go for 10 or more yards.

Quarterback Cody Stroud completed 21 of 30 for 251 yards and two touchdowns.

Eleven players caught passes with David Bush leading the squad with four catches for 37 yards. Ernest Celestie added three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown while Nic Jacobs (3-51) and Kelvin Bennett (3-28) matched Celestie's actions.

The Cowboys' defense was just as productive as the offense as it allowed 216 total yards, 106 rushing and 110 passing. Fifty of the 106 rushing came on one play when UAPB running back Jamie Smith broke open a 50-yard gallop on the final play of the first quarter to help set up the Lions' second and final score of the game 30 seconds into the second quarter.

McNeese wasted no time in getting on the board. After forcing the Lions into a three-and-out in the first series of the game, McNeese marched down the field behind a 24-yard pass from Stroud to Celestie and 16 and 12 yard rushes by Wiltz, the final a touchdown score, to give McNeese a 7-0 lead with 11:40 to play in the first quarter.

Pine Bluff tied the game on a 7-yard run by Smith with 6:00 to play in the quarter and McNeese went back up 14-7 after an 11-yard, 90-play drive, capped off by a 1-yard run by Dylan Long with 24 seconds to play in the quarter.

After UAPB's score on a 2-yard run by Jeremiah Young that tied the score at 14-all, an 80-yard kickoff return by Diontae Spencer helped set up a 7-yard bull rush touchdown by backup quarterback Tyler Bolfing to make it 21-14.

Two plays later, a fumble by Smith caused by Chris Loveless at the 1-yard line was batted out of the back of the endzone for a safety to give the Cowboys a 23-14 lead. Another big kickoff return by Spencer of 35 yards set up an entire Wiltz series where he rushed three times for 51 yards and scoring on a 22-yarder to make it 30-14 in favor of the Cowboys.

McNeese got one more score in the second quarter on another Wiltz score, this time from six yards out, to put the Cowboys up 37-14.

The Cowboys scored in their first four possessions of the second half that started off with a 33-yard touchdown catch by Celestie. Long gave the Cowboys a 51-14 lead after a 12 yard catch from Stroud and the lead went to 58-14 following a Jontrey Tillman 9-yard touchdown run with 9:58 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Lions never made it across their 50-yard line in the second half as McNeese dominated the time of possession in the final two quarters by a 22:11 to 7:49 margin.

The Cowboys converted on 14 of 19 from third down and was perfect on fourth downs, going 2-for-2.

McNeese will return home on Saturday to continue its current three-game home stretch when it hosts West Alabama at 7 in Cowboy Stadium

Notables:
• First back-to-back 50 point games since the 2008 season (52 vs. Delta State; 63 vs. Southern Virginia)
• Several Cowboys had their firsts on Saturday. WR William Ryckman made his first career reception… RB Jontrey Tillman scored his first career touchdown… RB Dylan Long made his first career touchdown reception… RB Marcus Wiltz had his first career 3 TD game…QB Will Briscoe took his first career snap… S Shea Nutt and LB Deonte Thompson made their first career interception
• A total of 63 players played in the game
• McNeese has scored in 17 of its last 19 possessions on the season
• Cowboys are 7-0 in home openers under head coach Matt Viator
• Now 10-0 all-time vs. member of the SWAC
• The 15,217 in attendance is the largest home crowd since the 19,235 against Lamar in the 2010 season opener

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