Early turnovers doom McNeese at Rice

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HOUSTON – Four first half turnovers, including a fumble on the first offensive play, proved to be the stinger in McNeese’s 52-10 loss to Rice on Saturday night.

The Cowboys (0-2) turned the ball over four times in the first half and five times total as the Owls (1-1) scored 17 points off those miscues, all in the first half.

“Poor execution for the entire ballgame,” said head coach Gary Goff. “I did not think coming into this game we were big-eyed, but it looked like it was offensively because our best players did not execute at all. If we had started the game off like we started the third quarter, we had a chance for it to be a 14-10 ballgame.

“Turnovers were the story of the night. I’m speechless about that right now until I watch this film. We have to have better quarterback play. Both of them turned the ball over. Ultimately, the responsibility lies on my shoulders. We have to find out how to hold onto the ball, move the chains an put points on the board.”

McNeese trailed 31-0 at the half but came out in the third quarter marching 77 yards on two plays in 23 seconds to put points on the board and cut the deficit to 31-7. Deonta McMahon scored on a 62-yard run of cutbacks and broken tackles for the second-longest run of his career.

With the hopes of momentum shifting, Rice put a quick end to it on its first play in the third quarter when quarterback TJ McMahon took advantage of a downed cornerback and connected with a-wide open Bradley Rozner for a 75-yard touchdown and increasing the lead to 38-7.

Garrison Smith with give the Cowboys their final points on a 23-yard field goal with 3:10 to play in the third quarter to cut the margin to 45-10 before the Owls got their final score on McMahon’s fourth TD pass of the game.

Rice out-gained McNeese 487-263 in total offense and 26-14 in first downs. The Cowboys finished with 172 rushing yards, led by McMahon’s 101-yard game, the fourth in his career. He carried the ball five times and averaged 20.2 yards per carry. D’Angelo Durham added 55 yards on eight carries for a 6.9 average.

Through the air, quarterbacks Knox Kadum (5-12-1, 65) and Cam Ransom (3-9-1, 26) combined to complete 8 of 21 passes for 91 yards and two interceptions.

Defensively, Williams led the Cowboys with 12 tackles while Enos Lewis collected 11 and Micah Davey 10.

Rice’s McMahon completed 20 of 29 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns while running back Ari Broussard rushed for 71 yards on 17 carries.

McNeese will open its home season next Saturday when it hosts Alcorn State at 7 p.m.

• McNeese opened the 2nd half scoring on just 2 plays, 77 yards and 23 seconds.
• Deonta McMahon scored on a 62-yard run, the 2nd longest of his career.
• Josh Matthews caught 2 passes on Saturday night, increasing his career total to 72 and moving him into the No. 20 spot on the school’s career list, tying him with Darius Carey and R.C. Slocum.
• The Cowboys turned the ball over four times in the first half, two interceptions and two fumbles, with one of the interceptions going for a 91-yard score.
• Two of the turnovers came in Rice territory (37 and 14-yard lines).
• Rice scored 17 of its 31 first half points coming off McNeese turnovers.
• Kordell Williams recorded 11 tackles in the first half and finished with 12 to give him 240 in his career and needing three more to move into 20th all-time in school history.
• The Cowboys were 0 for 8 on third downs with a majority of those on 3rd and long.
• 91-yard interception return by Gabe Taylor is the third longest in Rice school history.

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