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McNeese State's Champlain Babin gets outside for a short gain during the second quarter of the Cowboys' 35-21 win over Weber State Saturday in Ogden, Utah. (Associated Press)

McNeese State's Champlain Babin gets outside for a short gain during the second quarter of the Cowboys' 35-21 win over Weber State Saturday in Ogden, Utah. (Associated Press)

McNeese holds on to beat Weber, remain perfect on season

Last Modified: Saturday, September 15, 2012 11:47 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

OGDEN, Utah — Just when it looked like McNeese State took a kick in the gut, the Cowboys struck Weber State back where it really hurts.

One play after a potentially game-changing Champlain Babin fumble was recovered by Weber State in McNeese territory in the third quarter, Cowboys cornerback Guy Morgan picked off Wildcats quarterback Mike Hoke at the 4-yard line and returned it 5 yards.

One play later, wide receiver Diontae Spencer took an end around 91 yards to the end zone to give the Cowboys a 21-7 lead and send McNeese on its way to a 35-21 win in its first game against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent this season.

“Guy’s play really kind of turned it,” said Cowboys head coach Matt Viator. “Then one play later Tiger (Spencer) scores. I can’t say enough about our players. Weber State came as advertised.”

“It kills you,” said Weber State coach Jody Sears. “We throw a pick, ‘Who cares? Let’s go. Let’s keep ‘em down here, let’s get the ball back and tie this thing up.’”

It wasn’t as close as the score indicated — the Cowboys were up 35-7 with 6:45 to play before both teams went with second-unit players.

McNeese racked up 557 yards of total offense on the way to its first 3-0 start since 2009.

Early in the second half, a blowout seemed out of the question.

Weber State (0-3) scored its first touchdown and was looking to tie things up when Babin’s fumble was recovered at the McNeese 26.

It took Morgan one play to take back that momentum — and one more play for Spencer to streak down the sideline and crush the Wildcats’ hopes.

“G got the momentum back and we said, ‘We’ve got to punch it in,’” Spencer said. “And that’s what we did.”

He wasn’t the only Cowboy running wild.

Javaris Murray added a 76-yard run in the fourth quarter to put the icing on the cake and extend McNeese’s lead to 35-7. Combined, the scores were the two longest touchdown runs by the Cowboys since Henry Fields broke a 90-yarder and Kerry Joseph an 83-yarder against Idaho in the 1994 playoffs.

Murray finished with 122 yards on 12 carries, while Spencer had 106 on two carries.

McNeese rushed for more than 200 yards for the fifth consecutive game dating to last season. The Cowboys have rushed for at least 290 yards in all three games this season, going for a season-high 301 against the Wildcats.

However, this rushing deluge was set up by the passing of quarterback Cody Stroud.

With Weber State’s stout defensive line giving McNeese fits in the first half, the Cowboys went to the air. Stroud responded, finishing 20-of-27 passing for 256 yards and a touchdown.

“It was nice to actually throw the ball a bit. We showed all the people that were doubting that we can throw the ball,” Stroud said. “We’re not just a run-happy offense.”

Stroud’s finest drive came at the end of the first half, when he went 7 of 8 for 74 yards before scoring an a 4-yard scramble to put McNeese up 14-0 with 16 seconds remaining. The lone incompletion was a downed ball to stop the clock.

Stroud completed passes to 11 targets. Ernest Celestie led the way with five catches for 97 yards.

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