Cowboys overcome miscues, down Sioux Falls

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sometimes it’s just whether you won or lost, not how you played the game.

McNeese State overcame a herky-jerky offensive showing that included three turnovers to beat Division II Sioux Falls 31-17 in the home opener at Cowboy Stadium.

“Offensively we never got any rhythm whatsoever, and a lot of that’s my fault,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “We came in trying to see who would play and who wouldn’t play and never really settled in on anything, and I think it kind of showed.”

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The Cowboys (1-1) finished with 413 yards of total offense, but it never really felt like it as the Cougars (0-3) kept hanging around despite not having much offensive production (262 total yards) themselves.

Sioux Falls trailed 14-0 at halftime but jumped right back into the game in the first three minutes of the second half.

Stroud was hit on a blitz as he dropped back to pass, and though his arm looked to be moving forward the play was ruled a fumble, which the Cougars recovered at the McNeese 21.

The Cowboys defense limited USF to a field goal, but it had no way to keep the Cougars out of the end zone two plays later as Stroud was picked off by Angelo Pree, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.

“It was electric (on the sideline),” said Sioux Falls coach Jed Stugart. “At halftime we talked about how we needed a big play. We needed the ball back. We get a fumble and a pick-six, and we get exactly what we planned on. But we’ve got to build on that and not the mistakes that helped take that (momentum) away.”

McNeese responded with a pair of touchdown drives that benefited from Sioux Falls penalties.

The Cougars had to kick off from their own 15 after a personal foul following Pree’s touchdown return, and McNeese started the ensuing drive on USF’s side of the 50 before driving in for a 4-yard Andre Anderson touchdown.

Sioux Falls went three-and-out on its next drive before punter Braden Wieking boomed a kick to the McNeese 16. However, the Cougars were called for an illegal procedure that nullified the punt. Wieking’s next attempt was partially blocked by Terence Cahee and traveled 14 yards before the Cowboys took over at the Sioux Falls 45.

Anderson finished that drive with another score, this one from 2 yards out.

“Those are little mistakes (on things) that we’ve practiced all year,” Stugart said. “You have a great punt like that and then shank one, that’s one of the self-inflicted things that hurt us.”

Both Anderson touchdowns came one play after long completions from Stroud to Wes Briscoe — one a 32-yarder on third-and-16 and the other a 27-yarder on fourth-and-8.

Despite Anderson’s two scores, McNeese’s rushing game never really found its stride. The Cowboys averaged 3 yards per carry on 44 attempts.

“We have to execute better in the run game, obviously,” Viator said. “We spent a lot of time in spring ball and August camp working on our passing game. We have to be able to do that and still be able to run the ball. I’d like to be able to run the ball like we did last year but still be able to pass it better. We have to balance that in practice.”

Sioux Falls scored on a 4-yard pass from Taylor Perkins to Jeremiah Oates to cut the margin to 28-17 in the fourth quarter.

A 38-yard Josh Lewis field goal put McNeese ahead 31-17 with 2:20 to go, and Sioux Falls’ last gasp at a comeback was snuffed out when London Durham intercepted a long Carrington Hanna pass at the McNeese 18 with 1:27 left.