Cowboys pull off upset of South Florida

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

TAMPA, Fla. —  The typical trappings of a season-opening FCS vs. BCS matchup were on full display at Raymond James Stadium

on Saturday night.

With the game well in hand, the second-stringers trudged onto the field with 4 minutes remaining. After the game, pre-planned

celebratory fireworks shot off beyond the pirate ship in the stadium’s south end zone.

Except it was the road team doing all the celebrating.

McNeese State throttled American Athletic Conference member South Florida 53-21 in one of the most stunning results in the

history of either program.

It was McNeese’s first-ever win against a team from a BCS conference. And it was the second-most points ever surrendered by

USF, behind only the 56 scored by Oregon in the 2007 Sun Bowl.

“This is a big-time win against a Big East team that always has good athletes; in a good venue,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator.

“This is a big win for us, no doubt.”

The 53 points were the most ever scored by an FCS program against a BCS automatic qualifying program, and the 32-point margin

of victory was the biggest ever by an FCS school in such matchups.

McNeese (1-0) entered the game as a 20-point underdog, and left $400,000 richer thanks to the contract inked by the schools

in 2011.

“I did not see it playing out like this,” Viator

said. “They’ve got good players. We got a couple breaks in the first

half

and made the most of them. But I’m really proud of how we played

in the second half. We increased our lead. That’s a testament

to our conditioning.”

Early in the game, the Bulls (0-1) looked like the ones who would be running away. Running back Marcus Shaw broke loose for

an 80-yard touchdown run on USF’s first offensive play.

Instead, McNeese responded with a 33-0 run to close out the first half that started with a safety on a bad USF snap and ended

with Guy Morgan returning an interception 77 yards for a score in the waning moments of the second quarter.

“It was real stunning,” Morgan said of USF’s first play. “But football is about battles. And if you win the most battles,

you win the war.”

It was a flawless quarter for the Cowboys, who scored four touchdowns and a field goal. And they hadn’t even peaked yet.

Ryan Bronson picked off USF quarterback Matt Floyd on his first pass of the third quarter — and final pass of the game — to

set McNeese up in golden field position.

Dylan Long’s 1-yard run — his second of the game — capped the 16-yard drive and put McNeese up 40-7.

USF backup quarterback Bobby Eveld breathed some life into his moribund offense with a pair of touchdown passes that cut the

gap to 43-21.

It mattered not to McNeese. Two plays later, Cody Stroud hit 6-foot-5 tight end Nic Jacobs in stride down the sideline, and

the big man raced home for the 78-yard kill shot.

“The momentum was kind of going away when we called that and hit it,” Viator said. “But I didn’t see it going 78 yards.”

Jacobs, the LSU transfer, finished with five catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

“I felt like this was the biggest game of the season, so I came out strong and ready to play,” Jacobs said. “It’s a money

game, you know you have to play (well). And I came out and performed to the best of my abilities.”

McNeese’s second-stringers ran the final 4 minutes off the clock.  

As the Cowboys jogged to the locker room, the fireworks display began just outside the stadium.

Stroud stopped and pointed.

“Hey, that’s for us!” he yelled. “I could care less (about them being planned). I don’t care how they go off. I like ‘em.”