McNeese State cornerback Guy Morgan tips away a pass intended for Southeastern Louisiana’s Tony McCrea during the first half Saturday night. (John Lenz, Hammond Daily Star / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, September 24, 2012 12:47 PM
HAMMOND — Give any team enough chances, even a winless one, and eventually you’ll pay.
And boy, was McNeese State in a generous mood Saturday.
Mistake upon mistake, upon injury upon mistake, compounded for the Cowboys, who were stunned 25-24 by Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference opener for both teams. It was SLU’s first win over McNeese since 2005.
An inability to stop SLU (1-3, 1-0 Southland) in key situations was the story of the game for a McNeese (3-1, 0-1) defense that hardly had an opening-night starter on the field by the end. The Lions were an otherworldy 8 of 17 on third down and 3 of 5 on fourth down.
“Bottom line: we didn’t play good enough to win,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “Defensively we played good. We just couldn’t get them off the field. And we couldn’t stay on the field on offense. That was the difference.”
SLU’s two biggest fourth-down conversions came on the go-ahead possession.
Punter Beau Mothe connected with long snapper Rogers Mueller on a fake punt pass that went for 27 yards and put the Lions in McNeese territory, bringing a previously dormant crowd into hysterics.
“It’s something we’ve been working on,” said SLU head coach Rob Roberts. “We were looking to see if it was there. We were going to burn a timeout if it wasn’t. But he saw it, and he took it. It was great execution by Beau and a great catch by Rogers.”
The possession ended on fourth-and-goal when quarterback found tight end Taylor Jenkins standing in the end zone without a defender within a 5-yard radius for a 3-yard touchdown with 2:39 remaining. The score capped a 17-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7:03.
As it turns out, the possession hadn’t actually ended.
McNeese managed to pick up a penalty for too many men on the field on the point-after attempt, giving SLU the ball at the 1-and-a half yard line. Smelling blood, Roberts went for the kill.
Michael Chaney rushed into the end zone for a 2-point conversion to give the Lions the 25-24 lead.
“As soon as the penalty popped up, I figured it was a chance for us to seal this game,” Roberts said. “I believed we could get a yard-and-a half, especially with what was at stake.”
It was another piece of special teams negligence that allowed the Lions to take the lead in the first place.
McNeese appeared to take a 10-point lead on a 31-yard field goal by Josh Lewis, but the play was waved off by a false-start penalty on freshman Logan Gladney. Lewis did not make the second attempt, pushing it wide left. He is 4-for-7 on field-goal attempts this year.
“The false start, I don’t know how to explain it,” Viator said. “And too many men on the field, there’s no excuse. But I attribute it to playing a bunch of guys. We were shuffling guys in and out of there.”
Any chance for Lewis to atone for his miss was wiped out one play into McNeese’s final drive when Robert Alford made a one-handed interception on a Cody Stroud pass at the McNeese 30.
Early on, it didn’t look like late-game heroics would be a factor for either team. McNeese jumped on SLU in the first quarter, going up 14-0 less than nine minutes into the game. The Cowboys forced the Lions to go three-and-out on their first possession, then recovered a fumble on the first play of SLU’s second possession. Both were turned into touchdowns.
The Cowboys were left kicking themselves after a squandered opportunity at the end of the first half.
Freshman punter Jean Breaux seemingly shocked everyone on SLU’s side of the field with a 24-yard run to the SLU 12 on a fourth-and-22 in the final minute of the second quarter.
The Lions helped the Cowboys get even closer to the goal line with a penalty on the ensuing set of downs, but three incompletions in the back of the end zone and a quarterback sack forced McNeese to settle for a field goal and take a 24-10 lead into the break.
“Obviously we’d have liked to score the touchdown, but going up 14 points, I still felt good about that,” Viator said. “In the second half, we just didn’t make enough plays on offense and we had a few plays to get them off the field on defense. Give them credit. They made play after play on third down.”
The McNeese offense, which had rushed for at least 290 yards in each of its first three games, was limited to 147 by a SLU defense that had been allowing an average of 244.7 per game.
McNeese’s defense, without starting free safety Malcolm Bronson and linebacker Joe Narcisse, lost cornerback Guy Morgan, linebacker Orrin Fontenot and safeties Ford Smesny and Wallace Scott over the course of the game.
“We have a lot of guys who have had a lot of time throughout the season. That’s no excuse,” said safety Terrence Cahee. “That’s no excuse. We had a chance to make some plays, and also they made some really good plays. Yeah, it hurts us to lose some starters. But that happens every season. You’re gonna have to overcome it.”
Posted By: James On: 9/24/2012
Title: Not an upset?!!
If this isn't an upset, then Mcneese's level of play has definitely diminished. SELU lost big to tn Martin and S Dakota. So Mcneese beats an fcs school but then can't beat a weak team in the conference? Viator NEEDS to go.
Posted By: Jennifer On: 9/23/2012
Title: Credit where credit is due!!
SLU never gave up and obviously, they had something McNeese didn't-- HEART and DETERMINATION!! They believed. They fought as a team. They never gave up.
And, if you hold a team to no points in the 2nd half, it's not a fluke.
And to K. Brown, look who is 1-0 in conference play and who is 0-1. I wouldn't be calling SLU pitiful.
Posted By: Michael On: 9/23/2012
Title: 3rd Grade Level
Read these lines taken from the article above. This is 3rd grade stuff. I'm not sure who I am more surprised at, the coach for saying these silly things or the reporter who wrote it down without questioning the source for better answers:
Bottom line: we didn’t play good enough to win,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “Defensively we played good. We just couldn’t get them off the field. And we couldn’t stay on the field on offense. That was the difference.”
“The false start, I don’t know how to explain it,” Viator said. “And too many men on the field, there’s no excuse. But I attribute it to playing a bunch of guys. We were shuffling guys in and out of there."
AMAZING. I've read this over half a dozen times and I cannot believe the above appears in print. GOOD GRIEF.
Too many men on the field, false starts, total collapse of poise. 'We were shuffling guys in and out of there' (so was the other team) IT IS CALLED COACHING!!!!!!!!!! Or BAD COACHING.
I have never seen such kid glove treatment. The reporter much be kin to the coach or he simply doesn't know football.
Posted By: Jared On: 9/23/2012
Title: Fire Viator
How many more years of underachieving and undisciplined football do we have to witness before we hold this head coach accountable?
Posted By: kevein brown On: 9/23/2012
Title: No Heart
SLU!!!!! Come on. That is PITIFUL!!!!!!!!! No playoffs this year again, won't beat Sam Houston or Central Ark.
Posted By: Steve On: 9/23/2012
That is not any upset by sport standards..........more of a tweaked by win....or you could even say that it was an evenly matched game...........but not an upset.
Posted By: Rod Young On: 9/23/2012
Title: Poor QB
It is time for Coach VIator to come to reality. The QB sucks and he know it. Anytime you have a QB that check down 95% of the time, the coaches know he's worthless. When you don't trust your QB it's time for a change. He hold the ball too.......long. It's simple, time for a QB change. Stroud ruined the season last year please don't let it be a repeat.
Posted By: Rod Young On: 9/23/2012
Title: Poor QB