Today, the McNeese State Cowboys galloped into Hammond for a matchup with the Lions of Southeastern Louisiana. This game was one of the Lions’ best performances, maybe even their best, and I’m here to recap it. Southeastern took an early lead, and although there were a few speedbumps in the way of victory, it was never in doubt as SLU by a score of 38-24.
Tristian Goodly took the opening kickoff to the 37-yardline, building on his performance from the Lions’ last game, in which he won Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week in his collegiate debut. Zachary Clement started the game, and actually never came out, as Eli Sawyer didn’t appear in this game for the first time all season. This was not expected, as both quarterbacks split reps in practice all week. Harlan Dixon also started the game, which wasn’t a sure thing, as his portion of the backfield playing time and carries have been diminishing as the season progresses. Screens were the name of the game on the opening drive, as Bauer Sharp caught the ball on the first offensive play of the game, for 1 yard. Jacob Logan caught the next pass, also a screen, and ran upfield for 16 yards. Sharp caught another 1-yard screen, and then the rushing attack started for the Lions, as Clement took an 8-yard keeper around the outside. After a dropped pass by Logan, another screen was called, this time to Darius Lewis for 11 yards. Yet another screen for Da’shun Hugely gained 7 yards, and then the first non-screen completion was thrown, a 17-yard hitch route to Lewis, for a touchdown.
McNeese’s D’Angelo Durham took the first play from scrimmage for a first down. Not long after, Ryan Roberts was able to connect with Jonathon Harris for a 54-yard screen pass touchdown. This play was only the McNeese’s 6th passing touchdown in their eighth game, and the first which wasn’t caught by Jon McCall.
Clement came out for drive number two, and Rodeo Graham Jr. joined him in the backfield. Graham took a couple carries for a first down, and then Connor Briggs had a rare catch, just his second on the season and his 6th in four collegiate seasons. After an incomplete pass, it was fourth down from around midfield, and on the punt, the Lions ran a fake as Jacob Logan ran free for 37 yards, as the last man before the endzone made a stop. Clement and the offense trotted back out, and Jaylon Domingeaux was found for a short 3-yard reception outside. Thomas Miles, one of the most important players on the McNeese defense, made contact with Domingeaux that did not appear to be targeting, but the foul was still called and Miles was ejected. After that incident, Graham took a 6-yard carry into the endzone for a touchdown.
Joshon Barbie led the way on the ensuing McNeese drive. He took a couple carries on the drive, which ended shortly with a punt. SLU ran two plays on their next possession before the first quarter ended, with the score sitting at 14-7, Lions over Cowboys.
Clement was able to pick up 27 on a bootleg on the first play of the quarter. Sharp took the next play from under center, on a confusing sequence which saw a fake pitch back to Clement before keeping it himself and gaining 30 yards. One play later, Graham was able to score from 15 yards out, and cap off a quick and effective Lion possession.
McNeese punted, and the SLU punted, and then McNeese punted again. We finally saw more action on an SLU possession, with Clement throwing an interception on a screen pass that was blown up by Sedric Applewhite and caught by Masey Lewis.
Kamden Sixkiller replaced Roberts at quarterback, and completed one short pass before the McNeese punt unit came on again. Darius Lewis had an amazing return for 44 yards which set the Lion offense up in McNeese territory, at the 35 yardline. Jacob Logan caught a 10-yard screen and Dixon took a carry for 11 yards, and eventually, with around 0:30 left in the half, the field goal unit came on. The kick was blocked by McNeese’s Welland Williams, and recovered by Jamori Evans. Nothing materialized before halftime, and the Lions took a 21-7 lead into the halftime break.
On the first play of the second half, Sixkiller found Jihad Marks for a 77-yard touchdown over the top of the secondary. Marks hadn’t scored yet in two seasons at the Division 1 level, and Sixkiller, a freshman who was the third-string quarterback as recent as two weeks ago, threw his first collegiate touchdown.
Deantre Jackson took the first carry of the next Lion possession for 16 yards, and then after a series of short passes to Sharp and quarterback runs, Graham was able to score for the third time in this ballgame.
Blayne Delahoussaye entered the game on defense for the Lions. Delahoussaye broke his leg in the first game of the season against Mississippi State, but started practicing recently and made his return to the field in the third quarter. After a near-INT by Kunta Hester, the Cowboys settled for a field goal.
Soon after, Clement was hit for a strip-sack, forced and recovered by Micah Davey. Sixkiller led the way down the field, and handed it off at around the 6-yardline to Durham for a touchdown. Clement threw an interception on the next Lion possession, this time to Applewhite, Clement’s second interception thrown of the game.
Both teams traded punts, before Victor Tademy was able to make a crucial interception on a 50/50 ball early in the 4th quarter. Xavier Hill caught a 46-yard, wide-open touchdown and the Lions blew the score up to 35-24., taking a two-possession lead.
Tyrone Legette had a quiet start to the game, but came up with major plays on back-to-back McNeese possessions, first with a sack and then a PBU on a hit which laid out the Cowboy receiver. After the PBU, Herman Christophe IV was able to strip Marks of the ball on a short catch over the middle, and recover the fumble. Riley Callaghan kicked a 41-yard field goal, and SLU took a 38-24 lead. McNeese ran down the field, with a long run by Sixkiller. Jonathon Harris had a scary moment, being knocked out cold, but was able to exit the field under his own power. Donald Clay came up with a sack, and after a turnover on downs a play later, the Lions entered victory formation and closed out the game for their second win of the season and first in front of the home crowd.
Zachary Clement finished the game with 15 completions on 27 attempts for 158 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, alongside a very impressive 114 yards on 14 carries. Rodeo Graham Jr finished with 71 yards on 16 carries, and 3 touchdowns, while Dixon ran 7 times for 46 yards. Bauer Sharp totaled 38 yards on 3 carries, along with a team-high 4 catches for 30 yards. Xavier Hill led the team in receiving yards with 46, on just the one aforementioned catch. Darius Lewis went 3-35-1 through the air.
On defense, Ian Conerly-Goodly led the Lions with 10 tackles. A season-high seven sacks were recorded as a team, as well as the one fumble recovery and one interception.
For the Cowboys, Ryan Roberts completed 3/5 passes for 63 yards and an interception. Sixkiller went 9/19 for 130 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. D’Angelo Durham led the team with 14 carries for 78 yards, and Jihad Marks did the most damage receiving-wise, with 3 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Micah Davey and Jamori Evans totaled 16 and 11 tackles, respectively.
The Lions travel to Commerce for a matchup with Texas A&M – Commerce next Saturday. McNeese returns home for their final home game of the season, against HCU.