Special effort

Cowboys win using all facets

by DAVID BERRY
dberry@americanpress.com

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Lance Guidry is not going to apologize for winning.

Not in the Southland Conference. Not when his football team is chasing a conference title.

The Cowboys used a strong defensive effort along with some timely special teams play and offense to defeat Abilene Christian 24-21 on Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium.

The win means McNeese (5-1, 4-0 SLC) will at least be tied for first place going into its showdown at second-place Incarnate Word in two weeks. UIW is undefeated in conference play and will play last-place Lamar (1-4, 0-3) next week.

ACU’s offense went into the game averaging 32.2 points and 496 yards per game. McNeese held the Wildcats to 315 yards of total offense and 21 points.

“Coming into games with highpowered offenses, a lot of schools think you got to get into shootouts,” McNeese linebacker B.J. Blunt said. “If they can’t score, they can’t win. Holding those guys to 14 points, and then those guys score late in the game, that’s a compliment to my defense. Those guys stood up and came through when we needed them.”

Blunt finished with a career-high 20 tackles and it’s still arguable that he had the best individual defensive performance of the game. Junior defensive end and Barbe High alum Chris Livings finished with a five sacks, a career-high and tied the McNeese single-game record.

Initially, Guidry said he planned to play Livings only in third-down pass-rushing situations. But Livings said he felt better as he played.

“At the beginning, I was just watching the offensive line and their tendencies,” said Livings, who has been hampered by a high ankle sprain. “And seeing what their weaknesses (were), also from watching film earlier in the week. So basically, I just put it all together and I went after their weakness by using my strength.”

McNeese’s offense, which has struggled for a majority of the season, had things going on the first drive of the game when quarterback James Tabary found Trevor Begue for a 6-yard touchdown pass. The big play on the drive was a 46-yard pass from Tabary to Cyron Sutton.

But Tabary gave one back when he fumbled and ACU (2-4, 1-3) recovered the ball. Six plays later, Wildcats quarterback Luke Anthony used a QB sneak for a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the score at seven.

The Cowboys offense struggled for the rest of the first half, even when it seemed the had promising drives. They were able to muster a 28-yard Gunnar Raborn field goal as they went into halftime down 14-10.

ACU’s second touchdown came when Anthony found running back Billy McCrary across the middle for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

The third quarter opened with McNeese offensive drives ending in a punt and interception on consecutive drives. But the Cowboys found the end zone thanks to a David Hamm 1-yard touchdown run. The key play in that drive was Tabary finding Kylon Bradshaw for a 42-yard pass to the ACU 1-yard line.

With the Cowboys holding on to a three-point lead, Sutton gave McNeese some muchneeded breathing room when he fielded a Simon Laryea punt and took it 73 yards for a touchdown to give McNeese a 24-14 lead.

“I did not want to fair catch,” Sutton said of the touchdown. “I wanted it. Bigtime players make big-time plays.”

The defense, which played well for the majority of the game, gave up a score on the next drive when Anthony found Torin Justice on a fade route in the end zone on the right sideline for a touchdown.

ACU attempted an onside kick, but McNeese recovered it. They wound up having to punt it, but the defense finished the game with Livings’ fifth sack.

“The fans got their money’s worth again,” Guidry said. “Find a way to win.”

McNeese 24 | Abilene Christian 21