LAKE CHARLES — No. 19 McNeese State used 21 unanswered points over a 10-minute span of the second half to pull away for a 48-27 victory over Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference opener for both teams Saturday night in Cowboy Stadium.
Southeastern (1-3, 0-1 Southland) was led quarterback Brian Young, who played the entire game the Lions, completing 22 of 43 passes for 288 yards. Young also threw a career-high three touchdown passes.
McNeese State ran its mark to 2-1 and 1-0 in Southland Conference play, scoring 17 points off two Southeastern turnovers and a blocked punt, while also controlling the ball for less than 41 minutes.
The Cowboy tailback tandem of Andre Anderson (15 carries, 114 yards) and Marcus Wiltz (18-104) led the way offensively, as MSU racked up 287 yards rushing. Cody Stroud completed 15 of 23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, while Riley Dodge also caught a touchdown pass for MSU.
McNeese State had a two-touchdown advantage at halftime. The Cowboys took the lead by keeping the Lions offense off the field, as MSU held the ball 21:14 to just 8:46 for the Lions on the way to a 24-10 lead.
The Lions cut the lead in half quickly in the third quarter. After forcing McNeese to punt on the opening drive, Collins ran down a bomb from Young on the first Lion offensive play of the half and scored from 64 yards out to cut the lead to 24-17 with 11:23 left in the third quarter.
Southeastern again forced the Cowboys to punt on their next drive and were able to move down to the MSU 16-yard line on a 12-play, 60-yard drive. Seth Sebastian knocked in a 33-yard field goal to cap a drive that featured a third down pass interference penalty and a strong 20-yard run by Fairley. Sebastian’s second field goal of the game pulled Southeastern within four, 24-20, with 5:35 left in the third.
MSU answered quickly, as a 45-yard kickoff return by Javaris Murray set the Cowboys up at midfield. Five plays later, Wiltz danced in from four yards out to put the MSU lead up to 31-20 with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Southeastern was stopped near midfield on the next drive. Junior Beau Mothe had his punt blocked by Shelby Hemingway and McNeese took over at the Southeastern 35-yard line in the final minute of the third quarter. The Lion defense came up with a huge stop, as a sack by sophomore Walter Smith on fourth down allowed Southeastern to take over on downs.
After a Lions punt, McNeese greatly lessened Southeastern’s comeback hopes. On a third-and-one, Anderson slipped a tackle in the backfield and broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run to put the Cowboys up, 38-20, with 12:02 left.
Young was picked off on the next possession by Malcolm Bronson to give the Cowboys the ball back at their own 40-yard line. MSU put away Southeastern’s comeback hopes for good six plays later, as Stroud hit Murray from eight yards out to put the Cowboys ahead 45-20, with 8:16 left.
A 67-yard kickoff return by freshman Jordan Wells set Southeastern up at the McNeese 23-yard line. On fourth-and-seven, Young hit Pearson from 20 yards out to cut the lead to 45-27 with 7:21 left.
After an unsuccessful onside kick, McNeese added to their lead on a 34-yard field goal by Josh Lewis with 5:21 remaining. Lewis’ kick provided the final margin.
Southeastern gave McNeese State a short field on its opening drive of the game. Jones fumbled and McNeese State’s Desmund Lighten at the Lion 41-yard line. The Lion defense stiffened, however, as a sack by junior Devan Walker and senior Jerrod Black forced a 47-yard field goal by Josh Lewis to give the Cowboys a 3-0 lead.
The Cowboys again benefited from good field position on their third drive of the game. An 18-yard punt by Mothe set MSU up near midfield. Nine plays later, Dodge connected with Josh Jordan from a yard out to give the Cowboys a 10-0 lead with 3:36 left in the opening quarter.
The Lions broke through on the opening play of the second quarter. Young hit Yarborough on an eight-yard pass to cap an eight-play, 70-yard drive. Young connected with Yarborough (30 yards) and Collins (18 yards) on long passes and the drive was also keyed by a 17-yard Jones run down the left sideline. Yarborough’s 29th career touchdown pulled Southeastern to within three with 14:55 left in the opening half.
McNeese State responded with a methodical 15-yard, 72-yard march that took just over six minutes off the clock. Wiltz capped the drive with a three-yard scoring scamper up the middle to put MSU up, 17-7, with 8:43 left in the second quarter.
After forcing a quick Lion three-and-out, MSU again chewed up another five minutes off the clock with an 11-play, 60-yard drive. Stroud connected with Damion Dixon from 19 yards out to push the Cowboy lead to 24-7 with 2:38 left in the half.
Southeastern pulled closer on its final drive of the first half, as Young and Theodore connected three times for 53 yards on a seven-play, 63-yard drive. Sebastian knocked in a 21-yard field goal to cut the lead to 24-10 going into the break.