BEAUMONT – Diontae Spencer scored on a 16-yard end around run with 58 seconds to play as McNeese State rallied for a 42-38 win over rival Lamar in Southland Conference action and the regular season finale here Saturday night.
The win all but assured No. 6 McNeese State (10-2, 6-1 SLC) of a playoff spot while enhancing its chances at a first-round bye. Lamar fell to 5-7 and ended its Southland Conference slate at 2-5.
Trailing 38-26 following a 34-yard touchdown pass by Lamar's Caleb Berry to Mark Roberts with 8:24 to play in the third quarter, McNeese scored the final 16 points to pull out the come-from-behind win.
Spencer started the scoring streak on a 50-yard score on a pass from Cody Stroud with 6:24 to play in the third to cut the gap to 38-33. After the Cowboys forced the Cardinals into a 3-and-out, Ryan Rome connected on a 39-yard field goal to cut it to 38-36 with 3:43 to play in the quarter.
McNeese held the Cardinals to a second straight 3-and-out and then put together a nice drive that was halted at the 1-yard line when Dylan Long was held out of the endzone on a 4th-and-goal.
Lamar came back with an 11-play drive but was held short of a first down and punted the ball away with 5:13 to play.
The Cowboys started the game-winning drive on its own 11-yard line and used all but 58 seconds behind a stout running game that saw McNeese roll up 50 yards on the ground. But on a 3rd-and-10 at the 34-yard line, the big play of the drive next to the scoring play was when Stroud hit Nic Jacobs down the sideline who broke free for a 39-yard gain to set up a 1st-and-10 at the Lamar 27-yard line. Four plays later, Spencer sprinted into the endzone for the go-ahead score. The 2-point conversion failed.
McNeese finished the game with 483 total offensive yards, 309 of those coming in the second half. The Cowboys also controlled the clock in the final 30 minutes, holding it for 19 minutes.
Kelvin Bennett led a running game that rolled up 313 yards rushing. Bennett finished with 162 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. Marcus Wiltz added 89 yards and a score.
Stroud completed 11 of 23 passes for 170 yards and two touchdown passes. Those two scores gives him 27 touchdown passes on the season, tying a school single-season record set by Kerry Joseph in 1995.
Lamar added 476 yards of offense with 322 in the first half as the Cardinals held a 31-20 lead at the break.
The Cowboys opened the second half with the ball but was facing a punt situation at 4th-and-6 on their own 45-yard line when punter Jean Breaux took the snap and sprinted up the middle for a 26-yard gain on the fake punt. Wiltz took care of the rest as he took the ball four straight plays and capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run to cut the Lamar lead to 31-26 with 11:42 to play in the quarter.
Lamar scored on its next possession to go back up 38-26 but never made it to McNeese's side of the field the rest of the game.
Berry completed 21 of 41 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns while Kade Harrington led the Cardinals' ground game with 81 yards on 12 carries and a score.
The Cowboys will learn their playoff fate at 10:30 Sunday morning when the pairings are announced on ESPNU. A watch party will be held at the Jack Doland Field House and the public is invited to attend.
• Cody Stroud tied a single-season school record with his 27th touchdown pass of the season.
• Stroud extended his own record to 17 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
• Nic Jacobs led McNeese with 2 receptions and extended his streak to 12 games with at least one catch.
• With 42 points, the Cowboys have scored 510 points on the season, a new single-season school record.
• After punting just three times in the first 2-and-a-half quarters, Lamar punted three of their final four possessions of the game.
• Head coach Matt Viator won his 62nd career game.
• The 10 wins on the season is the most since 2007 when the Cowboys finished 11-1.
• Diontae Spencer made 2 catches for the game giving him 94 in his career and tying him with Donnie Ashley for 11th on the all-time career school list.
• McNeese's 313 rushing yards is the second 300-yard rushing game of the season (363 vs. Weber State).