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Cowboys lose home opener to West Florida, 42-36

Published: Sep. 4, 2021 at 8:05 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Cody Orgeron threw for 367 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 35 yards and a score, but the No. 1 team in Division II, West Florida, took advantage of critical McNeese penalties and scored touchdowns on six of 10 possessions to beat the Cowboys 42-36 in the 2021 season opener.

Orgeron’s passing yards is a career-high and ranks as the fourth-most in a single game in school history. He completed 31 of 47 ranking as the second-most completions and tied for third-most attempts in a game.

Josh Matthews caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown while Walker Wood reeled in seven passes for 104 yards while making his debut at the wide receiver spot. Stephon Huderson debuted at running back for the Cowboys with 73 yards and a TD.

For the game, the Cowboys totaled 490 yards to UWF’s 466 and ran 91 plays while the Argonauts snapped it 56 times.

West Florida quarterback Austin Reed completed 19 of 36 passes for 380 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. His top target was David Durden who had six catches for 172 yards and a score.

It was a back-and-forth game with McNeese striking first with a 3-yard touchdown run by Deonta McMahon in the Cowboys’ second possession of the game. That came after McNeese missed on a 32-yard field goal in the game’s opening possession.

UWF tied it early in the second quarter when Reed connected with Durden for a 44-yard score then the Argonauts took a 14-7 lead nine seconds into the second quarter on a Durden 6-yard run. The score was set up when a defensive penalty by the Cowboys on a UWF third-and-10 that extended the drive.

Orgeron threw his first touchdown of the game on a 13-yard strike to Markel Cotton, but a missed extra point due to a bad snap kept the Cowboys behind on the board at 14-13 with 10:15 to play in the first half.

Another long TD pass by Reed, this one of 26 yards to Ka’Ron Ashley, grew the lead to 21-13 a the 6:28 mark. After the Cowboy offense was held to a 3-and-out, West Florida failed to extend its lead after missing on a 39-yard field goal by Danny Laudet with 3:33 on the clock.

McNeese pushed the ball down the field in the final three minutes and a crucial 11-yard completion by Orgeron to Cotton with two seconds to play set up a 31-yard Graycen Kennedy field goal to pull McNeese to within 21-16 at the half.

The third quarter got off to a good start for the Cowboys with the defense holding UWF to a 3-and-out to start the quarter. McNeese moved the ball from its own 29 deep into Argonaut territory, but on fourth down, Orgeron’s completion to Wood was overturned due to a penalty on Wood for going out of bounds and coming back in to make the catch. Wood was forced out on the play by the defender but since he didn’t re-enter the field where he was forced out, the penalty was called. So instead of McNeese having the ball with a first down at the 6, West Florida took over on the 20 and marched down the field behind Reed’s passing, ending with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Coates to make it a 28-16 game with 5:16 to play in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Mason Pierce returned the kick 49 yards, then after a 15-yard face mask penalty by UWF set the ball at the 32, Orgeron capped an 8-play drive with a 1-yard, fourth-down touchdown dive at the 1:19 mark. But another missed kick failed to put a crucial point on the board and the Cowboys trailed 28-22.

McNeese had a chance to regain the lead after Colby Richardson intercepted a Reed pass at the McNeese 23 but the Cowboy offense was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt it away. Four plays later, West Florida’s Shomari Mason scored from 17 yards out to up the lead to 35-22 with 12:37 remaining in the game.

The Cowboys continued to battle and on the next possession, McNeese marched 75 yards on 13 plays, ending with a 2-yard Orgeron score to Matthews with 7:31 to play to make it a 35-28 game. The extra point failed, the sixth point of the game kept off the board by the kicking game.

The two teams traded scores the next two possessions, UWF scoring on a 9-yard Hargrove catch to put the Argonauts up 42-28 with 5:09 remaining, and McNeese getting a 2-yard Huderson score followed by a two-point conversion pass by Orgeron to Matthews with 2:44 left to pull McNeese to within 42-36.

The Cowboys’ onside attempt was awarded to West Florida after a Cowboy player touched the ball before the allowable 10-yards and Argonauts were able to run out the remaining time on the clock.

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