Exciting start: McNeese opens with 2OT victory over Tarleton St.

David Berry, Special to the American Press

STEPHENVILLE, TEXAS — A worldwide pandemic, two devastating hurricanes, and 448 days between football games.

A mere two-touchdown deficit wasn’t going faze the McNeese State football team.

Senior quarterback Cody Orgeron ran for the game-winning touchdown in double overtime to complete the comeback and give McNeese the 40-37 win over Tarleton State on a frigid Saturday night in Memorial Stadium.

It was McNeese’s first overtime game since losing at Northwestern State in the 2018 season.

With his father, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, in attendance, Cody Orgeron shook off shaky pass protection for most of the night to deliver when the Cowboys needed him most. Orgeron finished with 278 yards of total offense (170 yards passing, 108 yards rushing) and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).

Special teams played a key part in giving McNeese an early 10-0 lead. First, the Cowboys got on the scoreboard thanks to a 21-yard Jacob Abel field goal.

After getting the ball back and being forced to punt, punter Bailey Raborn hit a 53-yard punt that Tarleton punt returner Kaylon Horton could not field. Horton muffed the punt and Cowboys long snapper Trey Vondenstein recovered the fumble.

Three plays later, Orgeron found wide receiver Josh Matthews on an end zone fade for a 13-yard touchdown pass.

Tarleton responded on the next drive with its best offensive possession to that point and scored its first points as a Division I program when Adrian Guzman converted a 38-yard field goal to cut McNeese’s lead to 10-3.

Late in the first quarter, the Cowboys had the chance to go up two scores thanks to a solid offensive drive that started at their own 30 and drove inside the Tarleton 10-yard line. But on fourth down, McNeese elected to go for the first down instead of kicking a field goal, and the Texans’ defense stood tall, stopping Cowboys running back J’Cobi Skinner in the backfield for a loss of 5 yards.

That seemed to be the turning point. Although the both teams’ offenses struggled for most of the first half, Tarleton tied the score in the second quarter when running back Ryheem Skinner scored on a 4-yard touchdown run.

Although the game went into halftime tied at 10, that was the start of 24 consecutive Tarleton points to take the lead and put the Texans in position to potentially win the game comfortably.

Down 24-10, McNeese managed to crawl back to within a touchdown after a 5-yard Orgeron touchdown run. But Tarleton came right back, responding with a 13 play, 83 yard drive, capped by a 1-yard Braelon Bridges touchdown run, his second of the game, to give the Texans a 31-17 lead.

But McNeese did not go down easily, scoring a touchdown with just under 3 minutes remaining when Orgeron found wide receiver Mason Pierce for a 26-yard touchdown pass. After recovering the ensuing onside kick, the Cowboys drove down the field, converting a key fourth down deep in Tarleton territory to keep hope alive. Then, Orgeron threw a touchdown pass to Trevor Begue, who made a nice one-handed catch to tie the score at 31 and send it to overtime.

In the first overtime, the two teams traded field goals. In the second overtime, Guzman hit a 45-yard field goal, his third of the game.

When it was McNeese’s turn to go on offense, Orgeron ran two quarterback draws, and on the second one, found daylight around the left side and scampered in for the winner score.

McNeese will be off next week before opening the Southland Conference portion of its schedule at home against Incarnate Word on Feb. 27.McNeese State quarterback Cody Orgeron prepares to take the snap against Tarleton State.

Special to the American PressMcNeese’s Andrew Croker celebrates a fumble recovery.

Special to the American PressMcNeese State senior defensive Cory McCoy of Leesville tries to wrap up Tarleton State punt returner Kaylon Horton as they chase a loose ball during the nation’s first game of the Football Championship Subdivision spring season Saturday in Stephenville, Texas.

Special to the American Press

high-school Football

Photo Gallery: LCCP vs. St. Louis

Local News

Re-Thunk Junk Trail: ‘Some good finds if you take your time’

Local News

Pedestrian struck, killed on US 171

Local News

Vernon asks for more funding after Head Start enrollment doubles

Business News

Zoning laws amended for solar farm

Crime

10/15: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

Local News

SW La. nightlife calendar: Here’s what’s happening

Local News

Downtown Saturday fest aims to celebrate spirit, resilience of SW La.

Local News

Charla Blake: Project Build A Future work rewarding, humbling

Crime

Criminal motorcycle gang activity ‘at dangerous level’

Local News

Kinder man killed in motorized scooter accident

Local News

Cold front expected in SW La. Friday night

Local News

Amanda Dougherty: I have built lifelong friendships in teaching profession

Crime

10/14: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff announces arrest list

Jim Beam

Jim Beam column:Time to draw election lines

Local News

Lifelong wellness journey starts by taking the first step 

Local News

Jeff Davis, Vernon police juries oppose vaccine mandates

Local News

LC Housing Authority finally gets insurance money year after Laura

Crime

State trooper charged in fatal crash

Business News

Bayou Blend has comfort down to a ‘T’

Business News

Economist discusses fate of energy prices

Business News

Mayor honored with tourism leadership award

Business News

Names in the News: People shaping the future of Lake Area business

Business News

Russell Richard: Why leadership is so important