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The McNeese State football team makes its first visit to LSU’s Tiger Stadium on Oct. 16, 2010. The Cowboys will make a return trip in 2015. (American Press Archives)

The McNeese State football team makes its first visit to LSU’s Tiger Stadium on Oct. 16, 2010. The Cowboys will make a return trip in 2015. (American Press Archives)

LSU invites McNeese for 2015 season opener

Last Modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 5:33 PM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

The Cowboys are going big-game hunting.

McNeese State will open the 2015 football season at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. The game is set for Sept. 5, the schools announced Wednesday.

“It is exciting for us to get an opportunity to play there,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “To play one of the elite programs in the country in one of the great venues is special.”

The game will mark the second time McNeese will play in Tiger Stadium. The Cowboys became the first Football Championship Subdivision team from Louisiana to play at LSU in 2010.

McNeese lost that game 32-10 despite holding an early lead over the then-No. 9 ranked Tigers. The game drew 92,576, the largest crowd ever to witness a McNeese game.

“That game was such a tremendous opportunity for the players, coaches, fans and I think the entire community,” Viator said.

Since then the Cowboys have beaten two Bowl Championship Subdivision teams. Last year they stomped South Florida 52-21 and in 2012 they opened the season by knocking off Middle Tennessee State 27-21, proving they are not an easy pushover.

This fall McNeese will open its season at Big Ten Nebraska. The last time the Cowboys played a team currently in the Southeastern Conference they lost to Missouri, then in the Big 12, 50-6 in 2011.

However, for a Louisiana school there is nothing like playing in Tiger Stadium, and Viator remembers the experience his team got out of its first trip to Baton Rouge.

“Games like those are great for us,” he said. “They are done first class all the way. And kids who grow up in this region love to play in these games. It is a great experience for everybody.”

Some conferences have had talks about doing away with games against lower division schools. The FCS programs like McNeese count on such games for national exposure and a healthy paycheck.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

“Obviously we want to thank LSU and its administration for giving us this opportunity for the second time in six years,” McNeese Athletic Director Bruce Hemphill said. “We think our fans will help create a great atmosphere over there.”

Hemphill said LSU worked with McNeese to make the game the season opener, something the Cowboys were hoping for.

“They were very helpfully in that,” Hemphill said. “It will be great to have the buildup of the opener to go with it.”

Since 2000, the Cowboys have played 16 games against the higher division schools, winning four of those. Under Viator, McNeese is 3-7 in such games, including two consecutive wins.

Also on Wednesday, LSU announced it has finalized a home-and-home series with Syracuse starting with a 2015 game at the Carrier Dome.

That game is set for Sept. 26 and Syracuse will make the return trip to LSU on Sept. 9, 2017.

“This is another attractive nonconference series that our fans will enjoy and our football program will benefit from,” LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said. “To be able to bring LSU football to the northeast part of the country for a football game will be a unique experience and then to have Syracuse return the trip to Tiger Stadium in 2017 will be a nice addition to our home schedule.”

LSU is 1-1 all-time against Syracuse with both contests coming in bowl games. LSU beat Syracuse 13-10 in the 1965 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and then lost 23-10 to the Orange in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (now Outback Bowl) in Tampa.

LSU has also added nonconference home-and-home games with UCLA and Arizona State recently. The Tigers will open the 2014 season against Wisconsin in Houston and then face the Badgers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., in 2016.

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