By: Justin Kelm
McNeese’s return to Cowboy Stadium wasn’t what it was hoped to be. After two back-to-back hurricanes that devastated the area, the Cowboys were finally back home. Six months to the day since Hurricane Laura struck. A win for McNeese was the mission.
From a makeshift press box in the Cowboy Club at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, I witnessed as UIW Freshman quarterback Cameron Ward led his team to a 48-20 win over the Cowboys in the Southland Conference opener for both teams in front of a COVID restricted crowd of 2,394.
Even with limited fans, the atmosphere reminded me of the last game played at Cowboy Stadium in late 2019. UIW from the start to the finish of the game came to play. Not many had the Cardinals winning this game, and that added more fire to their squad.
The Cardinals had something to prove. Numerous players stood out. Senior defensive back and kick returner Ce’Cori Tolds took one 100 yards to the house for the score. The scoring just continued. At the half, UIW led 31 to 3. The crowd was stunned.
Halftime seemed to last longer than I remember, but it was great to watch the Pokes band and cheerleaders perform. In the third quarter, McNeese finally found the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run by Sophomore running back Carlos Williams which cut the margin to 31-10. On the next possession, UIW had their drive stopped by the Cowboys defense.
This would force the Cardinals to go for the field goal. Nothing seemed to go McNeese’s way. Out of the blue, the sideline judge blew his whistle which allowed the UIW to attempt the 48-yard field goal again. This time, the field goal coasted through the uprights. The score was now 34-10. A comeback was slowly starting to fade.
With 12:32 left in the game, UIW found the end zone again. Senior Captain, tight end Roger McCuller made the grab for the touchdown. The senior from Kilgore College made his first career catch an 8-yard grab to extend the lead to 41 to 10.
McNeese added a 27-yard field goal by Butler Junior College transfer Jacob Abel with 8:34 to play in the fourth to cut UIW’s lead to 41-13, then Cowboys’ quarterback Cody Orgeron made his way into the endzone from 12 yards out with 4:21 remaining to make it a 41-20 game.
Late into the game, the Cowboys used up all their timeouts. UIW with 33 seconds left in the game scored on a passing touchdown by backup Junior quarterback Kevin Yeager. The transfer from FBS New Mexico State broke away for a 42-yard rush which allowed the Cardinals to be in the end zone.
As the cannons fired, UIW (1-0, 1-0) defeated McNeese State (1-1, 0-1) 48 to 20. McNeese will return to action next Saturday when it visits Southeastern Louisiana to continue Southland Conference play.