LAKE CHARLES — Fans of the immovable object were rewarded Saturday evening as McNeese State’s Southland Conference-leading defense put on a show.
The affected force, Southeastern’s previously irresistible rushing attack, was held to 193 yards below its season’s average. The result was a hard-fought 21-7 win for McNeese as it won a showdown between two of the conference’s ranked squads.
Southeastern (3-2, 2-1) got a gutsy effort from its defense, too. The Lions held McNeese scoreless in the second half but were unable to take advantage.
McNeese (6-0, 4-0) clinched the win after sacking Lions quarterback D’Shaie Landor with 4:11 left to play. Wallace Scott recovered at the McNeese 30 to give the Cowboys breathing room in the final minutes.
“I think (Landor) did fine,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said. “We’ve got to do a better job around him helping him out. Its real hard to do anything thing if you don’t have a running game.”
The Cowboys did what SLU couldn’t and rushed for 232 yards. Ryan Ross had 150 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries to spark the effort.
Southeastern finished with 59 yards rushing, 231 total, and had just five plays longer than 10 yards. On the ground, 14 of their 19 runs went for less than five yards, and SLU converted only 3 of 15 third downs.
Xavier Roberson was the leading rusher with eight carries for 37 yards. Landor completed 11 of 29 passes for 166 yards for the Lions, who lost three fumbles.
“It was nothing I haven’t seen all week or in the previous years of playing those guys,” Roberson said of the McNeese defense. “They bring good pressure. We prepared well, but they executed on some plays, and we didn’t.”
McNeese piled up 283 first-half yards when it took a 21-7 lead into halftime. Afterward, the game turned into a defensive struggle with neither team finding a way to sustain drives.
McNeese threatened early in the fourth quarter but a missed a 32-yard field goal was all it got. The Cowboys had 86 total yards in the second half compared SLU’s 88, and played a big part in the teams combining for 19 punts in the contest.
Southeastern didn’t pick up a second-half first down until less than three minutes remained in the third. The Lions couldn’t get closer than the MSU 49 until its late drive that ended with Landor’s fumble.
“On both sides of the ball we had opportunities,” Roberts said. “Across the board, there were a lot of things we could have done better.”
Southeastern won the field position battle in the early going, but it didn’t keep the Cowboys down. McNeese drove 86 and 94 yards for touchdowns on its first two possessions when it ran off 17 plays to the Lions three.
Southeastern trailed 14-0 after one quarter but finally countered early in the second. Landor’s 54-yard completion to William French set up Roberson’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Still, French’s reception was the first of only three SLU first downs in the half. Landor completed just 4 of 13 passes, and the Lions were 1 of 7 on third down conversions.
McNeese grabbed the early lead with a 10-play drive that started at the MSU 14 following the opening kickoff. Daniel Sams’ 57-yard strike to Kent Shelby beat a third-down blitz, and set up a Sams’ 3-yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys needed only seven plays to go 90 yards on their second series. Sams’ 23-yard run got things going. Ryan Ross provided a 58-yard scoring run after he pinballed off a tackler in the secondary.
Late in the half, McNeese struck again with a methodical 69-yard drive. Aided by a facemask penalty that nullified a sack, the Cowboys boosted their lead to 21-7 after Ross scored on a 4-yard run.
“We’re going to get the film, learn from it, and move on,” Roberts said. “We’ve got a lot of mistakes we made, and if we learn from that, it’s a positive. If we don’t, then we’ll shoot ourselves in the foot again.”