LORMAN, Mississippi – Kent Shelby reached over the back of an Alcorn State defender to haul in the game-winning touchdown pass from James
Tabary with 26 seconds to play and McNeese outlasted the Braves 34-27 in a back-and-forth FCS regional football game here Saturday night.
The touchdown followed a wacky string of situations that appeared to have each team in prime position for the win.
"That was a tough game," said head coach Lance Guidry. "I'm proud of the way our guys fought to the very end. It wasn't pretty and mistakes were made, but we never quit and we got the W."
After Alcorn (1-2) tied the game at 27-27 with 12:28 to play, McNeese (2-1) had a nice drive going that got the ball to the Alcorn 20 following a 27-yard Tabary pass to Lawayne Ross. On the next play, Tabary's pass would be intercepted at the 3-yard line by ASU's Javis Morrison who returned it 30 yards to the 33.
Facing a 3rd-and-10, Braves quarterback, Lenorris Footman, kept the drive alive with a 16-yard completion as the clock ticked under nine minutes.
On 2nd-and-10 at the McNeese 40, Footman's deep pass down the sideline was intercepted by Calum Foster at the 3-yard line as the Cowboys squashed the momentum ASU had built.
After McNeese was unable to move the ball when being pinned deep, the Cowboys punted it away while the ASU returner took the kick off a hop at the 50 and weaved his way to the endzone for the score. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the Braves on the punt for leaping, gave the Cowboys the ball back at the 17-yard line.
On the next play, Tabary connected with Darious Crawley on a slant route and Crawley sprinted his way for the score. But that would be called back as well on a personal foul on McNeese.
The Cowboys would punt it away with 2:11 to play and Alcorn began its drive at its own 27-yard line.
McNeese's defense would hold the Braves to a three-and-out and the Cowboys would take possession one final time with 1:27 to play and the ball at their own 38.
Benjamin Jones picked up 14 yards on the first play on a pass from Tabary. Tabary then rushed for 6 yards and hit Shelby for 9 more yards to set the ball up at the 33 and leading to the game-winner.
Both teams combined for 865 yards in the game with the Cowboys racking up 446 yards and Alcorn 416, all of those coming through the air as the Cowboys' defense held the Braves to zero rushing yards on 19 carries.
Tabary completed 24 of 34 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Ross caught five passes for 72 yards while Crawley made five grabs for 52 yards and a touchdown. Cyron Sutton and Shelby each had touchdown catches, Sutton's being a 24-yard score with 10:59 to play in the second quarter to give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead.
Justin Pratt rushed for 114 yards on 13 carries with a long of 44 yards as McNeese's running game rushed for 136 yards and a 5.2 yards per carry for the game.
Footman completed 27 of 45 passes for 424 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Two of his three TD passes went for 69 and 70 yards, the latter tying the game at 27-27 with 12:28 to play.
McNeese returns to Southland Conference play next Saturday when it hosts Houston Batist for the first time ever.
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