Last Modified: Sunday, September 08, 2013 12:21 AM
A safety is only worth two points, but for the second straight week those points triggered a McNeese State avalanche.
The Cowboys eclipsed the half-century mark once again, scoring 44 unanswered points to rout defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff 58-14 in the Cowboys’ home opener Saturday night.
Combined with a 53-21 season-opening win at South Florida, it marks the first time McNeese has scored at least 50 points in consecutive games since 2008.
“We feel real hot,” said running back Marcus Wiltz, who had 12 carries for 115 yards and three touchdowns. “It’s kind of crazy putting all those points on the board.
“We were saying on the sideline that we feel like an Oregon offense — without the running quarterback,” Wiltz joked. “We’re having fun out there.”
McNeese rolled up 528 yards of total offense — 265 through the air and 263 on the ground.
“Since I’ve been here, this is the most balance we’ve had,” Wiltz said. “In situations we need to pass, we just pass. In situations we need to run, we’re confident to run. It’s a good feeling.”
It was a combination of special teams and defense that really got things rolling for the Cowboys.
After UAPB running back Jeremiah Young scored from 2 yards out to tie the game at 14 in the first minute of the second quarter, Diontae Spencer returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the Golden Lions 17 before being forced out of bounds.
Four plays later, McNeese backup quarterback Tyler Bolfing bulldozed two tacklers at the goal line to finish a 7-yard run that gave the Cowboys a 21-14 lead.
Lions returner Johnathan Johnson didn’t quite match Spencer’s feat, taking the ball out of the end zone and getting taken down by Austin Pennington at his own 7-yard-line.
On second down, Lions quarterback Ben Anderson was roughly separated from the ball by defensive tackle Kevin Dorn. Linebacker Bo Brown nearly made the recovery, but couldn’t quite secure it as the ball squibbled through the back of the end zone for a safety.
Brown recovered a fumble inside the 10 at South Florida last week.
“Since Day 1, Coach (Lance) Guidry has been stressing turnovers,” Brown said. “Luckily I’ve been able to be right there. It should have been a touchdown, but I was glad to get the two points. I just didn’t get it right in my hands and banged it with my leg. I was probably a little excited, too.”
Oddly, the Cowboys also had a safety last week on a ball that went through the back of the end zone.
Another strong Spencer return set the Cowboys up near midfield after the safety, and a 22-yard Wiltz touchdown run increased the margin to 30-14. From that point, there was no looking back.
“That’s the second straight week we’ve pinned them back on special teams, and then the defense gets a huge turnover,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “Then we get a good return on the safety and really we’ve gained nine points on one possession. Everything kind of feeds off each other. It started with a deep kickoff, and next thing you know you score. Hopefully we can continue that trend.”
Cody Stroud completed 21 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Spencer did not have any catches, but made his mark in the return game with 162 yards on four returns.
Ernest Celestie was the Cowboys’ leading receiver with three grabs for 63 yards and a touchdown.
McNeese dominated with 40 minutes of possession thanks to a 14 of 19 conversion rate on third down, as well as 2 for 2 on
BEST KICK RETURN: Diontae Spencer’s 80-yard kickoff return set the Cowboys up at the UAPB 17-yard line and put the Cowboys in position to take a 21-14 lead.
WORST KICK RETURN: Johnathan Johnson’s decision to take a kick out of the end zone backfired when he was taken down at the UAPB 7. Two plays later, a safety turned the tide against the Golden Lions.
WORST CLOCK MANAGEMENT: The Lions came out aggressive at the end of the first half despite starting at their own 12 with 37 seconds left. Two straight incompletions and a sack assured McNeese would get the ball back, but the Lions were bailed out by a roughing the punter penalty on McNeese’s block attempt.
BEST DRIVE: A picture-perfect 19-play, 83-yard drive that ate 9:35 off the clock in the third quarter was the best summation of McNeese’s domination.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7 7 0 0 — 14
McNeese State 14 23 14 7 — 58
First downs 14 32
Rushes-yards 26-106 54-263
Passing 110 265
Comp-Att-Int 13-25-2 22-31-0
Return Yards 0 (-7)
Punts-Avg. 5-38.6 1-47.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-Yds. 5-29 4-38
Time of Poss. 19:36 40:24
RUSHING--Ark.-Pine Bluff, Jami.Smith 15-90, Anderson 9-15, J.Young 2-1. McNeese St., Wiltz 12-115, Eaglin 11-74, Bennett 12-33, Long 8-25, Tillman 3-11, Bolfing 1-7, Collins 2-6, Stroud 1-1, Wi.Briscoe 1-(minus 2), Team 3-(minus 7).
PASSING--Ark.-Pine Bluff, Anderson 13-25-2-110. McNeese St., Stroud 21-30-0-251, Bolfing 1-1-0-14.
RECEIVING--Ark.-Pine Bluff, Ferguson 3-8, Jami.Smith 2-12, Bryant 2-10, Kensey 1-40, Swain 1-14, Winters 1-10, Eckwood 1-9, Branch 1-4, Beverly 1-3. McNeese St., Bush 4-37, Celestie 3-63, Jacobs 3-51, Bennett 3-28, Ke.Thomas 2-14, We.Briscoe 2-10, Mitchell 1-24, Long 1-12, D.Gladney 1-11, Wiltz 1-8, Ryckman 1-7.