McNeese hits road to face conference foe Incarnate Word for first time

McNeese hits road to face conference foe Incarnate Word for first time

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - McNeese will be looking to keep its foot in the race for the Southland Conference championship Saturday when the 10th-ranked Cowboys visit Incarnate Word at 6 p.m. at Benson Stadium.

The game will be televised in the Lake Area on CW (Ch. 7) and FoxSports Southwest (Ch. 132). And as always, the game will be broadcast live on the McNeese Radio Network and the flagship station of Gator 99.5 FM.

The Cowboys (4-2, 2-1 SLC) bounced back nicely with a 31-20 win over Abilene Christian last week after falling to Sam Houston State the week before.

McNeese will enter the game as the top-ranked team in the conference in nine different statistical categories, including: scoring defense (19.2 ppg), total defense (310.7 ypg), rushing offense (270.5 ypg), passing defense (179.0 ypg), pass defense efficiency (97.4 rating), sack allowed (6), opponent first downs (14.8 p/g), opponent third-down conversions (27.0 percent) and time of possession (33:33 minutes per game).

The Cowboys are also second in the league in rushing defense (131.7 ypg) and opponent fourth-down conversions (35.7 percent).

Incarnate Word (1-6, 1-3) is ranked last in the league in scoring offense (9.4 ppg), total offense (228.0 ypg), rushing offense (82.0 ypg), passing offense (146.0 ypg), pass efficiency (89.5 rating); and is second to last in scoring defense (40.9 ppg), total defense (461.0 ypg), rushing defense (242.3 ypg), and pass efficiency defense (164.3 rating).

Leading the Cowboys' offense will be quarterback Daniel Sams, who was one of 30 players recently named to the CFPA Performer of the Year Watch List. Sams tops the team and is second in the conference in rushing with a 96.3 per game average. He became the first quarterback in school history to run for 100 yards or more in three straight games after he tacked on 112 against ACU last week. In addition, Sams is averaging 7.9 yards per carry on the season – first in the league and fourth nationally.

Running back Derrick Milton notched his second 100-yard rushing game of the season last week with 109 yards. Milton is second on the team in rushing with 62.2 yards per game, and is the team leader in scoring with seven touchdowns on the year, six of those rushing.

The front five have done a tremendous job on the season, led by all-American Antoine Everett. Joining Everett up front are Mason Martin, Quinten Marsh, Nick Gorman and Ben Jones. Those five, along with key reserves Thor Miller, Joe Jenkins and Jordan Murray, have helped open holes that have allowed the Cowboys to rush for 300 yards or more in three games this season.

The line has also been charged with just one of the six sacks on McNeese quarterbacks this season.

Defensively, the Cowboys have racked up 18 sacks on the season – just five less than all of last year. The team is ranked 13th in the nation with an average of three sacks per game.

Junior end Brian Hine leads the way with three sacks as a total of 13 players have recorded at least a half sack on the season. The "D.W.A." (Defense With Attitude), has forced its opponents into 62 negative plays on the season while allowing opponents to a conference low 89 first downs – second-best mark in the nation.

Incarnate Word is coached by Larry Kennan, who was the head coach at Lamar from 1979-81. He coached in the NFL from 1982-97 and was the Executive Director of the NFL Coaches Association from 1998-2011 before returning to the sidelines.

The Cardinals are led in the backfield by running back Junio Sessions, who has 275 yards rushing with two touchdowns on the season.

The lone UIW win on the year was a 31-8 victory over Houston Baptist on Oct. 4.

Saturday's game will be the first-ever meeting between the Cowboys and Cardinals on the gridiron. Incarnate Word joined the Southland Conference last season.