Cardinals deliver final blow

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p><span>Lamar  21 | McNeese  17</span></p>” id=”87f39f39-e59b-447d-b309-c4c81b6df0be” style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent”}}

A disappointing finish to the season for McNeese State football was punctuated by a 21-17 loss to visiting Lamar in the Battle of the Border on Saturday night.

Coming into November with Southland Conference title hopes and in control of their destiny, the Cowboys lost their last three games and four of their last five to finish the season.

“Kind of like last week (against Northwestern State),” McNeese head coach Lance Guidry said, referencing the slow first half and more eventful second half. “Started out as kind of a defensive struggle on both sides. Offensively, not getting a lot going. Second half kind of switched a little bit.

“We knew Lamar had a good offense running the triple option; they didn’t do it as much tonight. It’s a tough night. We kind of ran out of gas a little bit on the defensive side.”

Lamar (7-4, 6-3 SLC) opened the scoring midway through the first quarter thanks to A.J. Walker’s 15-yard touchdown run. The extra point gave the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.

McNeese’s offense struggled to finish drives, and in some cases struggled to even start one. That, despite the defense playing well, aside from the lone Lamar touchdown drive in which the Cardinals gained 76 yards. Lamar gained 78 yards on its other six first-half drives.

The third quarter was more of the same for the McNeese (6-5, 5-4) offense, which ended its first two offensive drives with punts.

Late in the third quarter, Lamar extended its lead when — on fourth-and-short — Darrel Colbert found a wide-open Case Robinson for a 36-yard touchdown pass.

But the Cowboys responded and found the end zone when Benjamin Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for the score. McNeese went for the 2-point conversion to cut the Lamar lead to within a field goal, but the pass fell incomplete.

Down 14-9, Lamar had a chance to extend its lead to eight, but Elvin Martinez pushed his field goal attempt wide left.

Two plays later, the Cowboys took the lead when David Hamm ran for a 63-yard touchdown. The Cowboys against went for two and James Tabary found Ryan Ross for the conversion.

McNeese seemed poised to add to its lead when Darius Daniels forced a Lamar turnover when he got a sack-strip of quarterback Jordan Hoy that Harris Tafah recovered.

But the McNeese offense once again struggled to gain yards and had to punt the ball back to Lamar.

The teams traded punts and, when Lamar got the ball back, the Cardinals drove into McNeese territory thanks to two rushes for a combined 46 yards by Colbert and Myles Wanza. The next play, Colbert scrambled and found Zae Giles, who made a diving catch at the McNeese 1-yard line. One play later, Colbert ran in for the winning score.

“These past couple of games, we haven’t been the hottest coming out of halftime,” Cowboys defensive end Chris Livings admitted. “But, man, we’ve just got to take it all with a grain of salt and just work back at it this summer now.”

On McNeese’s next offensive drive, Tabary looked to end his college career with a fourth-quarter comeback. But that ended when — on his last college pass — he threw an interception to Davon Jernigan.

Lamar ran the clock out to end the game and push its winning streak to six games.

“It hurts,” said Hamm, who ran for a career-high 166 yards. “As a player, and as a captain, I wanted to give the younger guys an experience that they’ve never experienced before. I had a feeling in my heart that we were going to win this game, but at the end of the day, we didn’t come out with a dub.”

McNeese’s playoff chances are not high for the 24-team field. The Football Championship Subdivision playoff selection show is at 11:30 a.m. today on ESPNU.

Lamar  21 | McNeese  17