STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Hollywood doesn’t have a scriptwriter for what the McNeese Cowboys have endured the past six months and hit its high point so far on Saturday night.
McNeese Football is writing it for them.
Cody Orgeron sprinted from 19 yards out in double-overtime to give McNeese a 40-37 win over Tarleton State in the first college football game in a spring season since the 1890s.
A global pandemic, two major hurricanes and a team without a home or facilities for 5 ½-months, the Cowboys have overcome every roadblock, bump in the road, naysayers, and what not. Trailing 31-17 with less than three minutes to play wasn’t about to stand in their way.
“It was only fitting that it would end in the fashion that it did,” said first-year head coach Frank Wilson. “So resilient. So tough. A never say die spirit. A winner’s mentality. A team that refused to lose. We told our team we can’t win it in the first quarter. Can’t win it in the second and can’t win it in the third. We had a good first quarter and they tied it at the half. We fell behind and then was tested. Really tested your fortitude. Really tested your mentals. I could not be more proud of this coaching staff. I could not be more proud of this football team for its resiliency, perseverance and determination to claim victory.”
The remarkable comeback started when Orgeron found Mason Pierce on a 26-yard score to close the gap to 31-24 with 2:46 remaining.
The Cowboys set up for an onside kick and Bailey Raborn’s soft touch kick was batted by a Tarleton State player and recovered by McNeese’s Darius Daniels at the McNeese 44. From there, Orgeron and the offense marched on while a 12-yard scoring strike to Trevor Begue with a one-handed cradle catch tying the game at 31-31 with 35 seconds to play.
In the first overtime period, both teams drilled field goals – McNeese Jacob Abel from 21 yards then TSU’s Adrian Guzman with 37 yards to send the game to a second overtime tied 34-34.
The Texans scored first in the second OT on a Guzman 45 yarder to put TSU up 37-34 then Orgeron handled the ball himself when he rushed for six yards on first down then on the next play, took the snap and saw an opening on the left side as he sprinted for the game-winning score.
“There was nothing that was going to keep me out of that endzone,” said Orgeron who accounted for five TDs on the night – three passing and two rushing. He ended the game with 108 yards rushing and 170 passing.
McNeese scored on the opening series of the game on a 21-yard field goal to put the Cowboys up 3-0 with 9:15 to play in the first quarter.
On the Cowboys’ next possession, Raborn’s 53-yard punt would be fumbled by TSU’s Kaylon Horton and would be recovered by Cowboy snapper Trey Vondenstein at the Texan 15.
Three plays later Orgeron would connect with Josh Matthews on a 13-yard touchdown strike to give McNeese a 10-0 lead with 5:26 to play in the quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Tarleton State got on the board on a 38-yard Adrian Guzman 38-yard field goal to cut the margin 10-3 with 3:37 to play in the first quarter.
The Texans tied things up with 1:05 to play in the half on a 4-yard run by Ryheem Skinner.
TSU took the lead with 11:07 in the third when Tariq Bitson pulled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Steven Duncan, then added to its lead on a 27-yard rushing score by Braelon Bridges to make it a 24-10 with 2:31 to go in the third quarter.
McNeese scored early in the fourth quarter when Orgeron sprinted in from 5-yards out to cut the gap to 24-17 with 12:09 to play.
The Cowboys finished with 230 yards rushing, 170 passing for 400 total while the Texans tallied 408 offensive yards – 180 rushing and 228 passing.