ABILENE, Texas – Justin Pratt clipped the 100-yard rushing mark for the second straight game with 109 as the DWA (Defense With Attitude) came up big time and time again by allowing 138 total yards as the 22nd-ranked McNeese Cowboys held on to beat Abilene Christian 13-7 here Saturday night.
McNeese (5-1, 3-1 SLC) won for the fifth straight time and third consecutive game away from home. The team will have an off week next Saturday before returning home on Oct. 21 for Homecoming against Incarnate Word.
"I'm proud of the way our guys continued to battle and get this win," said head coach Lance Guidry. "I thought the defense was really good tonight. We only gave up one touchdown that come on a short field. They (ACU) have a good team and we knew it coming in. They have the fourth-ranked defense in the conference."
McNeese was able to run out the clock when on a third-and-long with 1:11 to play, two penalties were called on the incomplete pass play, one on the Cowboys for an illegal man downfield, and the second on ACU for unsportsmanlike conduct. That second penalty gave McNeese the first down as Tabary twice took a knee to run out the clock.
"That was a pretty wild ending," said Guidry. "We had an offensive lineman down field but they had a guy on our sideline talking and the referee threw the flag on him."
McNeese tallied 338 total yards with 163 rushing and 175 passing. Quarterback James Tabary completed 16 of 26 passes for the 175 with a touchdown, and for the second straight game, did not throw an interception.
When the Cowboys seemed to get a drive going, it would stall, especially in the second half when both teams failed to put points on the scoreboard.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a few times and should've put more points on the board," said Pratt. "Our offensive line did a good job of blocking for me and (David) Hamm. We were the only two backs with some carries."
Hamm, who rushed for 165 yards in last week's win at Stephen F. Austin, picked up 41 yards on 11 carries.
McNeese could've made it a two-score game with under 12 minutes to play when facing a 4th-and-1 at the ACU 10, but instead of kicking a field goal to make it a 16-7 game, the Cowboys elected to go for it and Pratt was hit for no gain as the Wildcats took over on downs.
"The offense wanted to go for it. The defense wanted to go for it. I wanted to go for it," said Guidry. "You always take the risk of getting it blocked in a situation like that. Our defense was playing really well so I was confident that they would hold up if we didn't make it."
And hold up they did. The Wildcats only crossed midfield three times in the game, twice in the second half, and were held to 24 yards rushing and 114 passing. ACU quarterback Dallas Sealey completed 18 of 35 passes for 114 yards and was sacked twice by McNeese – BJ Blunt and Andre Fuller.
The Cowboys also had nine tackles for a loss and four pass break ups.
Kent Shelby led all receivers with six catches for 99 yards and extended his streak to 30 consecutive games when catching a pass.
McNeese got on the board first after Gunnar Raborn made a 32-yard field goal to make it 3-0 with 3:23 to play in the first quarter.
On its second drive of the game, McNeese put together a 13-play drive that included a couple of running plays that went for 10 yards or more by Pratt but a 3rd-and-9 lob by Tabary to Kent Shelby end the endzone fell incomplete and the Cowboys had to settle for Raborn's field goal.
The next drive saw the offense lead off the series with a 14-yard run by Lawayne Ross then a 14-yard pickup by David Hamm four plays later that got the ball into Wildcat territory as the first quarter came to an end with McNeese leading 3-0.
Two plays into the second quarter, Tabary found Darious Crawley on the sideline of the endzone as he fought off a pass interference by the ACU defender to haul in the touchdown grab and giving McNeese a 10-0 lead just 29 seconds into the second quarter.
A 50-yard kickoff return by ACU's DeShun Qualls ignited the Wildcats' offense with the next possession as they needed only seven plays and four consecutive pass completions by quarterback Dallas Sealey to help set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Sealy to make it a 10-7 with 11:43 to play in the half.
McNeese had a chance to build a double-digit lead on the next drive as Pratt used his feet and Tabary his arm to get the Cowboys to the 14-yard line after picking up a big conversion on a 4th-and-3 when Tabary connected with Shelby for and 11 yard gain to keep the drive alive.
The Cowboys were only able to get four more yards on the drive and were held to a 27-yard field goal by Raborn to put McNeese up 13-7, which would end up being the halftime score.
• TE Lawayne Ross caught two passes on the night to up his season total to 19, tops in the SLC among tight ends.
• Tabary's one touchdown night snapped a streak of five straight games when throwing for multiple TDs.
• Punter Alex Kjellsten had three of his five punt downed inside the 20-yard line.
• Kent Shelby's game-high six catches gives him 107 in his career and moving him into 8th on the McNeese all-time receptions list.
• The defense has held all six opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and three to under 50.
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