Lake Charles, La.
On a scorching afternoon in Lake Charles, the McNeese State Cowboys welcomed the University of West Florida Argonauts to “The Hole”. Due to two hurricanes that hit the area and university in 2020, all home games have to be played early due to the damage caused. The Cowboys and their fans braved the heat and came out to support. One thing to note is the changes that head coach Frank Wilson and his staff have brought to McNeese State. Academics are one thing that I noted. Even during a pandemic and natural disasters, the Cowboys team posted a 3.0 GPA or higher. This is something that truly shows the culture has been changing. Also, a quarterback is now playing wide receiver for the Cowboys. Walker Wood, a quarterback who transferred from Kentucky has made the transition to the wide receiver position.
After the spring season, the Cowboys were effected by the transfer portal as many programs around the nation were as well. The Cowboys added crucial athletes to replace those who transferred. One player who continues to help the program is, quarterback Cody Orgeron who threw for 367 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 35 yards and a score. Orgeron’s efforts were great but the No. 1 team in Division II, West Florida, came out victorious. The Argonauts, a team who is no stranger to victories came with it today. The defending Division II champions showed they can play against anyone. A team in its fifth year of existence, the Argonauts were to not be tested. Everyone called it a “upset” when in reality, the team can play against anyone.
Head Coach Pete Shinnick and his team made the trip from Pensacola, Florida to Lake Charles. The Argonauts had one thing on their mind, and that was to win. West Florida quarterback Austin Reed completed 19 of 36 passes for 380 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. His top target was David Durden who had six catches for 172 yards and a score. Reed found Durden all game. Durden made spectacular plays.
In the Cowboys’ second possession of the game, Deonta McMahon found pay dirt and scored from three yards out. The lead was short lived as the Argonauts answered back. Reed connected with Durden for a 44-yard score. As the first quarter ended, it was anyone’s game. Nine seconds into the second quarter, the Argonauts took the lead. Durden took the direct snap and found the end zone on a six yard scamper. Penalties plagued the Cowboys’ defense and the Argonauts took advantage of it. The score was 14 to 7 now
On the ensuing possession, Orgeron threw his first touchdown of the game on a 13-yard strike to Markel Cotton. But the special teams continued to faulted, as the PAT was not successful. This is something that plagued the Cowboys all afternoon. The score was now 14 to 13.
The Argonauts found the end zone yet again. This time, another long pass from Reed as he found receiver Ka’Ron Ashley for the 26 yard score. The score continued to grow as the Argonauts pushed the lead to 21-13.
The Cowboys offense attempted to respond but faltered. A 31 yard Graycen Kennedy field goal pulled McNeese State to within 21-16 at the half. As the Cowboys made their way to the locker room you could hear the frustration from coach Wilson.
As the third quarter came, the Cowboys’ offense began to click. Orgeron found converted quarterback and current wide receiver Walker Wood for a huge gain, but it was all for not. Orgeron’s completion to Wood was overturned due to a penalty on Wood for going out of bounds and coming back in to make the catch. Wood was forced out on the play by the defender but since he didn’t re-enter the field where he was forced out, the penalty was called. As the Southland Conference head official notified everyone on the call, the Cowboys faithful let him have it. This penalty killed the drive. The Argonauts took over at their own 20.
Reed and his passing is something that defined this drive as the Argonauts found the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rodney Coates. The Argonauts offensive line provided Reed with the protection which allowed the Argonauts to take the 28-16 lead.
On the next kickoff, Mason Pierce returned the kick 49 yards. Pierce who is now wearing a new number, #1 continues where he left off in the spring. The Sophomore from Pearland’s Glenda Dawson High School is a human highlight reel. On top of the long kick return, the Cowboys added on 15 extra yards after the Argonauts got called for a illegal face mask penalty. The drive which was 8 plays ended with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Orgeron. The kicking woes continued as the PAT was yet again missed. This was crucial as the Argonauts lead was trimmed to 28-22.
The Cowboys had a chance to regain the lead after defensive back Colby Richardson intercepted a Reed pass at the McNeese State 23. This play sparked the Cowboys sideline but the offense continued to struggle and had to punt. Four plays later, Argonauts running back Shomari Mason scored from 17 yards out to up the lead to 35-22 with 12:37 remaining in the game.
The Cowboys continued to fight and did not give up. The Cowboys offense marched 75 yards down the field and scored. Orgeron found wide receiver Josh Matthews on a 2-yard pass. With 7:31 to go in the game, the score was now 35-28. The extra point failed, the sixth point of the game kept off the board by the kicking game.
The Cowboys and Argonauts exchanged scores on the following two drives. Argonauts running back Ra’veion Hargrove, a junior college transfer from Garden City Community College in Kansas found the end zone on a 9-yard rush. The lead grew to 42-28.
As the clock continued to roll, the Cowboys offense attempted to make the comeback. Tight End Jamal Pettigrew made key plays all game. Orgeron found him and the Cowboys offense kept rolling. The Cowboys made a living on going on it on fourth down. In all my years of covering football, I have never seen a team go for it this much and be successful. On the game, the Cowboys were 6 for 6. Cowboys running back Stephon Huderson, the Tulane transfer found the end zone on a 2-yard drive. After kicking woes, coach Wilson decided to go for the two point conversion. This worked as Orgeron found Matthews. With 2:44 left in the game, the Cowboys hopes remained.
This hope dwindled away as the Cowboys’ onside attempt was awarded to West Florida after a Cowboy player touched the ball before the allowable 10-yards and the Argonauts were able to run out the remaining time on the clock. As the clock struck zero, the Argonauts were victorious. 42-36.
Coach Wilson after the game stated “We had costly penalties at critical times and third down situations where we could have gotten off the field. We did not and that cost us and hurt us. We did not play the way that we desire to play.”
The Cowboys will be back in action next Saturday when they visit the Tigers of LSU. This game is very special for many reasons. It will be dubbed the Orgeron Bowl as son battles father. Kickoff is set for 7 pm from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.