Cowboys defense closes door on Bears
GREELEY, Colo. — It wasn’t the prettiest game ever played, but the McNeese State football team will return to Lake Charles with a notch in win column after defeating Northern Colorado 17-14 in a game that came down to the wire.
The Cowboys (1-0) saw a 17-0 third-quarter lead dwindle to three points in the span of minutes in the fourth quarter, but they held off and kept the Bears (0-1) off the scoreboard for the last 5 minutes of the game.
“A win’s a win,” said McNeese head coach Lance Guidry. “Last year we started the season out with a loss, so any way you can get it travelling the way we did … there are a lot of good things to take from it. We have a lot of corrections to make as well.”
The first half couldn’t have gone much better for the Cowboys as they jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead.
Senior running back Justin Pratt scored on a 2-yard touchdown run that capped an 11-play, 66-yard touchdown drive. McNeese extended the lead to 10-0 on its next drive with a 27-yard Gunnar Raborn field goal.
The Cowboys took all the momentum in the second quarter when sophomore defensive back Gabe Foster made a good read on the ball and jumped the route for an interception and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
McNeese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 N. Colorado …………….. 14
“That gave us a lot of momentum,” said McNeese senior linebacker B.J. Blunt. “Not just us, but it him, too, as a young guy. Coming in he was kind of baffled. Now he’s going 100 miles per hour; he just made that play and now he feels good about himself.”
The offense began to stall in the second half as the Cowboys became more conservative with their play calling. McNeese had one scoring opportunity in the half after a pass from quarterback James Tabary to Nate Briscoe put the Cowboys in the red zone. But after being pushed back, Raborn’s 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked and the offense never get back into a rhythm.
The Cowboys were limited to 16 yards in the fourth quarter.
“We just sputtered,” Guidry said. “We had some big plays, but then we’d have a sack or something stupid like that. … We have to do a better job with some play calling down there.”
The offensive stall kept UNC in the game, and the Bears jumped at the opportunity in the fourth quarter, getting on the board with a seven-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that lasted fewer than 3 minutes with 5:58 left in the game. Jacob Knipp connected with Patrick Stephens on a 27-yard scoring pass.
Knipp threw for 261 yards.
Twenty-two seconds and two plays later, the Bears were within a field goal after Tabary threw an interception to junior Sherand Boyd who pitched it to defensive back Michael Walker for a 53-yard touchdown return to make it 17-14.
“I saw a lack of energy in our defense after that interception returned for a touchdown,” Blunt said. “I just went out there with enthusiasm.”
That enthusiasm paid off on the ensuing Bears drive when Blunt sacked Knipp and then forced a hurried pass for an incomplete pass. One play later, Jovon Burris grabbed what was essentially a victorypreserving interception, as the Bears had one last drive with 30 seconds and no timeouts.
The Cowboys’ defense held left Colorado with a win.
Tabary completed 15 of 23 passes for 206 yards. His most consistent receiver was Parker Orgeron who caught four passes for 77 yards, including a diving, 31-yard reception in which he completely laid out for the catch.
The defense stayed on Knipp’s case all day and made things tough on the Bears’ “Three-Headed Monster” of running backs.
The Cowboys allowed 40 rushing yards and registered eight tackles for loss with six sacks.
Defensive end Cody Rosco led the Cowboys with 2 1/2 sacks.
“We feel like no offensive line can keep us from getting to the quarterback,” Roscoe said. “Every day is a dominant day for us.”
McNeese 17 | N. Colorado 14
McNeese State sophomore defensive back Gabe Foster returns an interception 49 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Northern Colorado Saturday in Greeley, Colo. Cowboys defensive end Chris Livings, left, provides the escort to the end zone. It was the Cowboys’ final score.