McNeese State crushes Arkansas-Pine Bluff in home opener

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

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

fourth-down opportunities.

Best and Worst

BEST MOMENT: Three years and five knee surgeries removed from his last football game, sophomore quarterback Will Briscoe finally made his

McNeese State debut in the fourth quarter. Briscoe did not attempt any passes, but it did not lessen the moment.

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.


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


McNeese 58, Ark.-Pine Bluff 14

Arkansas-Pine Bluff   7    7     0    0  —  14

McNeese State          14  23  14   7  —  58

                           UAPB     McN

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.