An imperfect ending for McNeese football

Published 7:15 pm Saturday, November 18, 2023

BEAUMONT, Texas — The worst season in Cowboy history came to a merciful end here Saturday.

Rival Lamar was the last to kick McNeese State while it’s down, driving the final nail into this year’s coffin with a 52-27 victory inside Provost Umphrey Stadium.

It was the most points the Cardinals have ever scored on McNeese and their first win over the Pokes in Beaumont since 1989.

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Hoping to salvage one piece of joy from a fall filled with frustration, the Cowboys instead just suffered more of the same in their season finale.

McNeese finishes the season without a win on the field for the first time in program history. The Pokes officially posted a 1-10 record, 1-6 in the Southland Conference.

Their only victory was by forfeit when Northwestern State canceled its season two days before they were to play in Lake Charles on Oct. 28. Nobody would have ever guessed that would be the high mark of a campaign riddled with failure.

“It is very disappointing,” said McNeese head coach Gary Goff. “It was a very tough season.”

It is the first one-win season for the Pokes since the first year of the program in 1940, when the Pokes finished just 1-4 as a junior college.

As for the Cardinals, the victory gave them their first winning season since 2018. They finished the year 6-5, 5-2 under first-year head coach Pete Rossomando.

Turnovers again proved costly as McNeese gave the ball away three times leading to 21 Cardinal points.

“We had the three turnovers and you can’t do that,” said Goff. “Two areas we have been really bad at all year are turnovers and stopping the run. We have to fix those.”

True freshman quarterback Kam Sixkiller showed both promise and a need for growth once again. In his second career start, Sixkiller became the first McNeese QB to throw for three touchdowns in a game since Cody Orgeron turned the trick against Southeastern on Oct. 2, 2021.

Playing with a separated shoulder that will require surgery Monday, Sixkiller finished 16-of-19 for 206 yards but also had two interceptions, his third and fourth turnovers over the last two weeks.

“I don’t know if I have had a tougher guy than him,” said Goff. “He played hurt the last two weeks and even turned his ankle in the first quarter of this game.

“But he is young so he is going to make mistakes. We have to live with those.”

Redshirt freshman Joshon Barbie ran for a career-high 138 yards on 22 carries just 10 days after being rewarded a full scholarship. In all, McNeese had the third youngest roster in FCS football.

“We can’t be young like this again,” said Goff. “But I’m excited for this team and to see how these guys get better.”

Micah Davey ended with his second straight 20-tackle game. The linebacker is the first Cowboy to ever record 20 tackles in back-to-back games.

“He has had a great season,” said Goff. “He is all over the field making tackles. He is not going to miss a tackle.”

Davey finished with 152 tackles on the season, the sixth most in school history, and his 15.2 a game is the highest ever.

After the Cowboys jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on Kam Sixkiller’s 30-yard TD pass to tight end Tyronne Hayes, the Cardinals owned the wrist of the first half.

They scored on their next three drives and four of their five overall to lead 28-7 at the break. TD runs by Khalan Griffin (32 yards), Damashja Harris (2), and Robert Coleman (9) led the way.

The Cards finished with 255 yards on the ground. Griffin had 123 of those on 22 carries while Harris added 81 on 16.

Coleman also threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers, ending the game with 132 yards on 17-of-17 passing.

As for Sixkiller’s TD passes, two went to Jihad Marks as he hit him one scoring strikes of 14 and 12 yards in the second half.

McNeese’s final score of the season came on a 1-yard D’Angelo Durham. Ironically, the Pokes outgained Lamar 397-187.

“We will not always be young,” said Goff. “I look forward to working with these guys and am excited about the future. We knew it would be a tough job here.”

I’m not sure anybody knew it would be this tough.