The 2021 fall football season has gotten off to a rocky start for the McNeese Cowboys. Coming into the game, the Cowboys (0-2) were looking for a victory. After playing the previous week against LSU, the Cowboys made the return to Baton Rouge. This time the Cowboys were set to battle the Southern University Jaguars (1-1).
The game begun with a bang, sophomore Mason Pierce took the kick-off 100 yards to the end zone for the score. The return by Pierce tied a McNeese and NCAA record.
Chris Fontenette set the record against Northwestern State on Oct. 17, 1992. This sparked the entire Cowboys sideline and the fans who made the trip.
The lead would not last long as the Jaguars responded as quickly as the Cowboys. The Jaguars would then go ahead and score and take the 14-7 lead. As the first quarter came to a close, the Cowboys offense looked stagnant. Jacob Abel nailed a 32-yard field goal and the Cowboys cut the Southern lead to 14-10.
A big defensive stand by the Cowboys to force Southern to turn the ball over on downs at the McNeese 32 with 7:46 to play in the half.
The Cowboys offense went 3 and out on their possession and had to punt it right back. Eddings had another nice punt to pin Southern inside its 20 for the second time.
The Jaguars offense marched down the field and found the end zone yet again for another score. This gave the Jaguars a 21-10 lead over the Cowboys with time ticking away.
Cowboys senior quarterback Cody Orgeron left the game after getting hit clearly in the helmet, taking the hit while sliding down.
The Jaguars player was flagged for a targeting and was ejected.
Cade Bartlett, a redshirt freshman from Waller, Texas made his collegiate debut and completed a first down pass. As the first half came to a close, the Cowboys trailed 21 to 10.
Coach Frank Wilson delivered a very powerful half time speech. It was do or die for the Cowboys. Nobody expected them to be trailing at the half.
As the second half begun, it was time for Cody Orgeron to take over. He was cleared by doctors to return. This sparked the Cowboys entire team. When Cody went down, everyone took it personal. Including myself, I was visibly upset.
“He’s our leader,” said Wilson about Ogeron. “When he took that shot, it lit a fire in us and we went into a protective mode to be able to fight for our quarterback. I think it motivated them. I knew what Cody’s answer was going to be about his ability to go back in the game so I had to hear it from the doctors. When they cleared him to play, it sparked us. It woke us up to go out and fight for our team.”
This mess safe seemed to carry into the first possession of the third quarter when McNeese’s Jarrius Wallace intercepted a Ladarius Skelton pass at the Jaguar 47 and returned it 21 yards to the 26. A 15-yard penalty was tacked on for a targeting against Southern that put the ball at the 13. The Jaguars seemed to be coming for blood against the Cowboys all game. That was the second targeting call of the game. Things began to get chippy, but Coach Wilson and his coaching staff made sure to clear that up real quick.
“Talk with your shoulder pads. You play in between the whistle, the right way.” said Wilson about the targeting calls.
On the first play from scrimmage, McNeese’s Stephon Huderson burst up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 21-17. This game was very special for Huderson as he was playing in front of his friends and family. The Tulane transfer also noted he was playing against former teammates as well during his time with the Green Wave.
Special teams are one thing that had plagued the Cowboys all season, but this game was the opposite. Special teams made a crucial play again when Tahj Samuel blocked a Martell Fontenot punt and the Cowboys took over at the Southern 47. This really did turn the game around as the score was 21-20. Abel connected on a field goal on the previous Cowboys drive.
The Jaguars defense thought they had got to Orgeron but that did not happen. Orgeron escaped two Jaguar players in the backfield to avoid a sack, rolled to his right and found Jamal Pettigrew on the sideline 12 yards down the field for the first down. You can say Orgeron channeled his inner Houdini.
The drive ended with with Orgeron finding Josh Matthews on a 3-yard touchdown pass. He then connected with Pierce on the two-point conversion to give the Cowboys a 28-21 lead. This was the first lead of the night for the Cowboys. A fire was lit under them. They refused to lose.
On the next possession, Jaguars quarterback Skelton’s attempt to lateral the ball was out of reach of his pitch man and defensive back Corione Harris pounced on the live ball for the fumble recovery.
Harris, the Kansas University transfer said “I never heard a whistle blow and we’re always coached to play until you hear a whistle.”
A 27 yard successful field goal by Abel extended the lead to 31-21. Southern answered with a field goal of its own to cut the margin to 31-24. On the ensuing kick-off the Jaguars failed the onside kick. With the recovery of the unsuccessful onside kick, the Cowboys went into victory formation and secured their first victory of the fall season. The Cowboys improved to 1-2, while the Jaguars dropped to 1-2.
The Cowboys will open up Southland Conference play next Saturday at Incarnate Word. Kick-off is set for 11 a.m.
The Cardinals come in to the game with a 2-1 record. The Cardinals defeated Division 1 FBS member of the Sun Belt Conference, Texas State 41-34.
This game will be very special as former Cowboys wide receiver Trevor Begue is now a member of Incarnate Word.