STILLWATER, Okla. — It was a night that got off to a quickly inauspicious start for the McNeese State football team.
And then it got worse.
McNeese had a few bright moments but mostly struggled as Oklahoma State dominated in its home opener on its way to a 56-14 victory on Saturday night in front of a sold-out Boone Pickens Stadium.
“Those guys are really talented,” McNeese head coach Sterlin Gilbert said of Oklahoma State. “But just looking from our perspective again, just want to see improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. I’m really anxious to get back on the plane and start watching (film) on the way back and just see what those corrections need to be.”
Going into a game as a heavy underdog, McNeese couldn’t afford to make many mistakes, especially early. It happened in the worst possible fashion as OSU (2-0) quickly got on the board when cornerback A.J. Green jumped a Cody Orgeron pass for an interception and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead after the extra point.
Trevor Begue, who finished with 69 yards on a team-high five receptions, said he didn’t say much to Orgeron after the pick and thought he responded well from it.
“You just got to shake it off,” Begue said of Orgeron’s pick-six. “It’s a hostile environment, obviously you don’t want to throw a pick-six on the second play of the game. But it’s all about how you respond, and I thought he responded well.”
Despite the slow offensive start, McNeese’s defense played well early. On OSU’s first offensive drive, linebacker Carlos Scott forced OSU running back Chuba Hubbard to fumble the ball, which OSU recovered. On the next play, OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders was sacked by Chris Livings. Along with being Livings’ second sack of the season, it also put him nine sacks from own from the school record. The drive ended with OSU punting.
After another McNeese (1-1) punt, OSU took over and seemed as if the Cowboys were driving after three consecutive plays of 9 yards or longer. Then Sanders threw a bubble screen to Dillon Stoner that Darion Dunn forced a fumble on that Jovon Burriss recovered.
When McNeese was on offense, Orgeron came out of the game for a series and was replaced by Matt Keller. Orgeron later re-entered.
But after the good start, OSU’s offense started assert its dominance over the McNeese defense. OSU scored on seven consecutive drives starting at the end of the first quarter — with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Sanders to Tylan Wallace — into the third quarter, when running back Micah Cooper plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown run one play after Phillip Redwine-Bryant intercepted Orgeron and returned the ball to the McNeese 1-yard line. In the second quarter, OSU put together two touchdown drives of 91 yards each and they took a 28-0 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, after OSU scored to go up 35-0, McNeese responded and got on the scoreboard thanks to a 16-yard touchdown pass from Orgeron to running back D’Andre Hicks. The highlight of the drive was a 52-yard run from Orgeron on third down a few plays before the touchdown.
McNeese’s offense looked better in the second half, granted it was against Oklahoma State backups. However, McNeese once they got inside the OSU 5-yard line, getting denied on back-to-back possessions on the OSU 1-yard line.
“When you get in that opportunity, you want to get points on the board,” Gilbert said of McNeese’s goal-line troubles. “Especially in that down and distance. We just got to continue to grow and get better.”
With the game well out of reach late in the fourth quarter, McNeese managed to score thanks to the defense when Dorion Pollard forced a Deondrick Glass fumble that Marcus Pollard picked up and ran back 32 yards for the touchdown.
Despite the loss, Begue said enjoyed the experience of playing a Power Five conference.
“It’s what I thought, it’s big-time football,”Begue said. “It was everything I thought. That’s a good football team out there, they’re going to compete for the Big 12 championship. We’ve just got to move on to the next game.”