SLU throttles McNeese, hands Cowboys first conference loss

By By Alex Hickey / American Press

McNeese State doesn’t always lose, but when it does, it loses big.

The fourth-ranked Cowboys laid their second dinosaur-sized egg of the season, ceding control of the Southland Conference in

a 41-7 loss to No. 25 Southeastern Louisiana.

“A loss like this at home is just

embarrassing,” said Cowboys senior wide receiver Ernest Celestie.

“There’s no other way

to explain it. To lose on your home turf is demoralizing,

especially for someone like me where this is my hometown. Defending

your home turf is a top priority, and to fail at that tonight is

hurtful.”

The Lions (7-2, 4-0 Southland) are the team sitting alone atop the league standings after their crushing performance.

“We got out-played, out-coached, out-everythinged,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator. “Give them credit. It just didn’t seem

like we ever got in any kind of rhythm offensively, and we got them into some second and third-and-longs and couldn’t get

them off the field.”

McNeese (7-2, 3-1) has only lost twice this year, but both have been complete dominations at the hand of a Top 25 opponent.

The Cowboys were also slaughtered by then-No. 5 Northern Iowa by a 41-6 margin on Sept. 28.

“I don’t know how to figure it out,” Viator said of McNeese’s two ugly losses. “We had our best week of practice we’ve had.

It just didn’t seem like we made any plays. But we had a tremendous week leading up to it.”

McNeese came into the game with the No. 4 scoring offense in the nation, but never moved the ball inside the SLU 20-yard line

on a drive. The Cowboys did not cross the 50 in the second half.

SLU limited McNeese to 191 total yards — 99 rushing and 92 passing. The Cowboys had eclipsed the 500-yard mark five times

this season.

“Defense, probably one of our better games up front because that was a great offensive ball club,” said SLU coach Ron Roberts.

“When we watched film, McNeese was really the first team in a couple weeks that really got our boys’ attention. They knew

we were going to have to come in and play well.”

Things took a disastrous turn from the get-go, with Marcus Wiltz fumbling the ball away on the second play from scrimmage.

McNeese’s defense limited the Lions to a field goal on that possession, but SLU had a 20-0 lead before the Cowboys sustained

an offensive possession long enough to be labeled a drive.

Cody Stroud found Diontae Spencer for a 24-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 20-7 with 5:44 left in the second quarter.

The Cowboys got a minor glimmer of hope when Guy Morgan picked off a Bryan Bennett pass at the McNeese 13 with under 30 seconds

left in the half and returned it to the SLU 48.

McNeese got into range for a 46-yard Ryan Rome field goal attempt to end the half, but despite having the wind at his back

he misfired so badly that the ball barely crossed the goal line.

Still, Morgan felt positive vibes in the locker room at the half.

“We definitely felt we had a little momentum going, and felt good about coming back out on defense,” Morgan said. “But we

just didn’t capitalize. We didn’t do the small things right.”

It did not take long for hope to be extinguished.

The Lions took a 27-7 lead on a 40-yard Rasheed Harrell touchdown run on their first drive of the second half.

McNeese reached midfield once in the second half, but did not cross into SLU territory. It’s the second straight year the

Cowboys were held scoreless by the Lions in the second half.

SLU dominated the game in every conceivable area.

The Lions finished plus-2 in turnover margin, picking off a pair of Stroud passes to go with the Wiltz fumble.

SLU dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 20:46 of the second half and 37:47 in the game.

No stat was more lopsided than third-down conversions. SLU was 11-for-21 (52.3 percent) on third down, while McNeese was 3

of 14 (21.4 percent).