LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - McNeese scored 13 fourth quarter points and rallied from a 20-9 second half deficit to beat Northwestern State, 30-20, on Senior Day, capping off the home slate with a 5-1 record.
The win was the third straight for the Cowboys (6-4, 4-3 SLC) and fourth win in the last five games and will now have a bye week before closing out the regular season at Nicholls and Lamar with a postseason playoff berth still in reach.
It also extended the Cowboys’ winning streak at home over the Demons to 15 consecutive wins (NSU’s last win in Lake Charles was in 1988.)
Northwestern State, who was coming off a 44-41 overtime win at then-first place Incarnate Word last week, fell to 1-8 on the season and 1-5 in the league.
“I’m excited for those 17 seniors we had out there today and to send them out with a win on this home field,” said head coach Sterlin Gilbert. “As we got into the game and got into halftime, we talked about battle and finish. And we talked about that early in the week. Just finish.”
Finishing is something the Cowboys have been accustomed to during this winning streak. For the third straight game, McNeese dominated the fourth quarter.
On Saturday, however, things turned late in the third quarter when Darion Dunn intercepted the second of his two passes on the night, and after senior Justin Pratt, who ran for 87 yards on 29 carries picked up 19 yards on two rushes, quarterback Cody Orgeron found Trevor Begue on a post route for a 27-yard touchdown strike to pull McNeese to within 20-17 after the two-point conversion was good with 2:45 to play in the third.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, Enos Lewis popped the ball loose from NSU returner Myles Ward as Justin Jackson recovered at the Demons’ 17.
Orgeron converted on a fourth-and-1 at the 8 as time expired to end the third quarter, then on the first play of the fourth quarter, Orgeron found Begue once again on a 3-yard score to put McNeese up 24-20.
Bailey Raborn added two field goals for the Cowboys in the final 8:14, one from 20 yards and the game-winner from 29 yards out with 1:06 to play.
“That was a really good team we played who are coached really well,” said Begue about the Demons.
“It all started in the film room and watching film of them,” said Dunn about his two interceptions. “I’m just glad I could do what I could to help out my team. They (NSU) might only have one win but they didn’t play like a one-win team. They are a good team with good coaches.”
After surrendering 244 offensive yards in the first half, McNeese’s defense held the Demons to 70 yards in the second half and 20 yards and two first downs in the fourth quarter alone.
Senior defensive end Chris Livings entered the game 6.5 sacks shy of becoming the school’s career sacks leader and added three to his total on the night, giving him 28 in his career.
His third sack of the night came on a fourth-and-10 play and the Demons with the ball at their own 23 with just over two minutes to play. That gave McNeese the ball back on downs and led to Raborn’s field goal that put the Cowboys up by 10 with just over a minute to play.
On NSU’s next possession, quarterback Shane Eppler would go down via two more sacks, 1.5 by Cody Roscoe and a half sack by Tyrique Gibson with Roscoe’s solo sack giving McNeese the ball back to run out the clock.
NSU took advantage of two McNeese first half turnovers, turning one into a touchdown and a 22-yard Eppler to Quan Shorts touchdown on short yardage to put the Demons up 17-9 at the time.
The Demons opened up the game by scoring on their first drive, capping off the drive with a 9-yard rush by Jared West to make it 7-0.
D’Andre Hicks put McNeese on the board on the ensuing kickoff when he broke free for a 96-yard score, but a bad snap on the point after attempt forced a bad kick that was blocked and the Demons held a 7-6 advantage.
NSU tacked on a 37-yard field goal by Daniel Justino to make it 10-6 with 6:59 to play in the first quarter, then McNeese’s Bailey Raborn connected on a 23-yarder early in the second quarter to cut the margin to 10-9.
Orgeron had a great night throwing the ball, completing 16 of 18 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns and for the second straight game, not throwing an interception.
Cyron Sutton caught seven passes for 71 yards to lead the Cowboys with his first catch of the day giving him 100 in his career and making him the 11th player in school history to haul in 100 catches. Begue added three catches for 48 yards while Draysean Hudson caught three passes for 45 yards.
Eppler ended the night completing 28 of 52 passes for 294 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while the Demons’ running game was almost non-existent with just 20 yards on 22 carries.
• D’Andre Hicks’ 96-yard first quarter touchdown return was the first KOR for a TD for the Cowboys since Benjamin Jones returned one 99-yards against Lamar in the 2018 season finale. It’s tied as the fourth-longest KOR for a TD in school history.
• WR Cyron Sutton extended his streak to 19 straight games with a reception.
• QB Cody Orgeron extended his streak to six consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes.
• Darion Dunn intercepted two passes in the game. It’s the second time the junior has intercepted two passes in a game with the other coming against Alcorn on Sept. 14.
• Freshman RB Carlos Williams got his first carries of the season due to injuries to Elijah Mack and J’Cobi Skinner that kept them out of action.
• The five QB sacks and 10 tackles for a loss by the Cowboys were the most for McNeese’s defense in a game this season.
• NSU’s 20 rushing yards was the least amount allowed by McNeese’s defense this season.