The Jaguar Nation made its presence felt in Southern’s first trip to Cowboy Stadium.
With the large influx of Southern fans, McNeese State set a school record crowd of 20,437 on Saturday night to watch their Cowboys edge the Jaguars 34-28. The previous record of 20,300 was set in 2002 against Grambling. Capacity was set at 17,410 in 1991, and prior to that crowds were estimated.
“We’ve got some of the best fans, but it's also disappointing when we don’t perform the way we need to for them,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “They do a great job supporting our program, but we didn’t do a great job of helping them leave here happy.”
Southern also is responsible for the No. 1 and No. 3 crowds at Cajun Field in Lafayette. The Jaguars helped draw 41,357 in 2009 and 36,170 in 2014 when they played season-openers at UL.
Kicking and hitting
Southern placekicker Cesar Barajas went beyond the call of duty on the game’s opening kickoff and paid a price for it. After kicking off, Barajas went flying in for a tackle on McNeese return man J’Cobi Skinner and made the stop, but injured his left knee on the play and had to be helped from the field. Barajas returned to kickoff the next time Southern scored but stayed farther from the action.
The game was the 999th in Southern’s 101-season history. The Jaguars are now (605-364-30). Jaguars coach Dawson Odums is now 50-30 in his seven-plus seasons as coach, third most in school history. And Odums is now 1-6 in openers and Southern is 57-35-6 overall in its first game of the season.
The game was only the second meeting between the schools who played at A.W. Mumford Stadium in the 2004 season opener. McNeese won that game, 35-17. The two were scheduled to play at Cowboy Stadium in 2005 but the game was canceled because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Southern’s Human Jukebox marching band made the trip and took up residence in the northeast corner of the visitor’s side. It won’t be their most notable appearance during this college football season. The band will perform and march in the 2020 Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. The band has performed in six Super Bowls.
Defense provides solid effort
Southern’s defense under first-year coordinator Lionel Washington proved to be stingy most of the night before tiring in the fourth quarter. McNeese scored its first three touchdowns after taking possession on short fields inside Southern territory. The Jaguars held McNeese to 167 total yards through three quarters, an effort that kept Southern within striking distance for much of the game.
Rushing game missing
Southern averaged 200 yards per game rushing last season and 4.9 yards per carry. Against McNeese, Southern came up short with numbers that were half last season’s average. For the game, Southern gained 103 yards on the ground but it needed 40 attempts to reach that total, an average of 2.6 yards per rush.
Fumbles played part
Southern fumbled away two McNeese punts in the game. More concerning: for the game Southern had six fumbles and lost five. For all of last season, Southern had seven fumbles while losing six.