It started as ugly as the skies above, but ended up a nocturnal rainbow.
McNeese State overcame a mistake-prone first half to cruise to a 43-6 win over visiting Weber State in a rainy Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium.
“We just hung in there, kept playing hard, and ended up making plays,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator.
McNeese is 4-0 for the first time since its undefeated 2007 regular-season campaign.
“We have to take it one game at a time, but we have a legacy to fulfill,” said senior wide receiver Ernest Celestie. “It’s bigger than ‘now.’ We have a past. This is what we do. So it’s an honor to be 4-0 and that team everyone’s looking at now.”
The Cowboys finished with 43 unanswered points after allowing another long play for a touchdown on the opponent’s first possession, the third time such a thing has happened this year. This time it was a 48-yard connection between Austin Chipoletti and Cam Livingston.
As was the case in the season opener at South Florida, McNeese’s foe spent the rest of the game resembling a headless chicken on offense.
“That’s just Coach (Lance) Guidry preaching when you lose one play, you’ve got to go to the next play and win it,” said sophomore safety/linebacker Wallace Scott. “We lost one battle, but we came back and won every battle after that.”
The Wildcats completed 7 of 31 passes for 37 yards following the touchdown hook-up on their first throw. At one point McNeese forced 10 consecutive incompletions.
“We were sluggish. We had a slow start as an offensive whole,” Celestie said. “We had the defense make plays to keep us in the game. We had to come out in the second half with a different mind-set.”
The tide turned when Scott returned an interception 69 yards for a score to put the Cowboys ahead 7-6 late in the first quarter.
Scott was moved from safety to linebacker this week with Deonte Thompson out with a concussion and Hayden Dobbs sitting out the first half due to a suspension for targeting an opposing player’s head.
In addition to his pick-six, he batted down a third-down pass at the line of scrimmage midway through the third quarter.
“They moved me (to linebacker) on Sunday,” Scott said. “But I had played there in high school, so I just had to learn the game plan.”
After stumbling around to the tune of six false starts in the first half, the Cowboys looked their normal selves after halftime, exploiting their speed advantage to build on a 17-6 lead.
“We finally got ourselves in a position to use (our speed) in the second half,” Viator said. “They came out and kind of had us boxed on defense and had good pressure early. But finally we got into the open field and made some plays.”
Celestie started the rout by taking a bubble screen 43 yards for a score, then added a 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Kelvin Bennett closed out the scoring with a 50-yard run. He also struck paydirt from 48 yards in the first quarter.
Surrounded by Bennett and Celestie’s flash-and-dash, Marcus Wiltz quietly led the Cowboys with 140 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
McNeese gained 363 yards on the ground on a tough night for passing. The Cowboys had 585 yards of total offense, making this their third consecutive week over the 500 mark.
“We’re an explosive team,” Wiltz said. “We just have to start off like that from the first kickoff return. In some games, we won’t be able to wait until the second half to get that started.”