SAN ANTONIO – Brent Spikes had a record-breaking game on Saturday night in McNeese's 41-21 Southland Conference win over Incarnate Word when he picked off three passes for a total of 148 interception return yards to help keep the 10th-ranked Cowboys in the hunt for the league championship while picking up their first road win of the season.
McNeese improved to 5-2 overall but most importantly, 3-1 in league play. And with the loss by Southeastern Louisiana earlier in the day to Stephen F. Austin, McNeese is now in a five-way tie for first place in the loss department.
Although the game was well in hand, Spikes' third interception of the game put the final nail in the coffin when he returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to give McNeese a 41-14 lead with 7:17 to play in the game.
“I told myself third time is a charm and if I get that third one, I'm going to take it all the way, and that's what I did,” said Spikes.
Spikes set a new McNeese and Southland Conference single game record with 148 interception return yards and tied a school record with his three picks.
“I'm happy for him,” said head coach Matt Viator. “He's a great kid and a very hard worker. He's one of those kids that you always pull for. Just a great young man, a humbled young man.”
Spikes' three picks was just half of the turnovers the Cowboys forced onto Incarnate Word (1-7, 1-4) as interceptions by Shea Nutt and David Bush on a crazy punt play, in addition to a fumble recovery by Cameron Smith, totaled McNeese's takeaways to six for the game. It was the most interceptions thrown by a UIW team in school history.
Offensively, the game wasn't as expected as the Cowboys were held to a season-low 273 offensive yards which included a season-low 175 yards rushing and 98 yards passing.
Daniels Sams completed 4 of 10 passes for 97 yards and ran the ball nine times for 35 yards, his lowest total of the season. It snaps a three-game streak of 100-yard rushing games.
Dylan Long, who also had a career night with three touchdowns scored, ran for 60 yards on the night while Ryan Ross led the team with 64 yards and a score.
UIW threw for a season-high 254 yards but was held to 49 yards on the ground. It's the fourth time this season the McNeese defense has held its opponent to less than 100 yards rushing on the season.
The first half was everything but an offensive slugfest.
Both teams managed just five first downs each while McNeese compiled 96 offensive yards and UIW 58.
Long scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard run to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with 50 seconds to play in the first quarter. That score came after Spikes snatched his first pick at the McNeese 22 and returned it 62 yards to the UIW 16.
Five plays later, Long plunged in for the score.
On the Cardinals' next possession, quarterback Jordan Scelfo was picked off again by Spikes after his pass was tipped by Gabe Hamner, and returned it 41 yards to the UIW 8-yard line.
This time, Ross scored from nine yards out to make it 14-0 with 11:00 to play in the second quarter. The Cardinals turned it over on their third straight possession when Broderick Reeves fumbled at their own 18 and McNeese's Smith came up with the recovery.
Four plays later, Long scored from two yards out to make it 21-0 with 9:24 to play in the half.
Long scored his third td of the game on a 2-yard run just two minutes later to make it 28-0.
McNeese's first three touchdowns were set up when the Cowboys started those drives inside the UIW 20-yard line while all but one scoring drive began on the UIW side of the 50.
The Cowboys will stay on the road one more week when they visit Northwestern State next Saturday.