McNeese edges No. 17 SLU, 38-34, in Southland shootout

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Cody Orgeron
(Photo: Richard J Martin DDS)

LAKE CHARLES, La. – McNeese State quarterback Cody Orgeron found Trevor Begue for a 33-yard go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 remaining to help the Cowboys edge No. 17/19 Southeastern Louisiana, 38-34, in a wild Southland showdown Saturday evening at Cowboy Stadium.

The Lions (3-2, 2-1 Southland) erased a 21-point second-quarter deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter before Orgeron’s third scoring toss of the contest gave McNeese (3-3, 1-2 Southland) the advantage for good.

Southeastern had one last chance, but McNeese turned the Lions over on downs and were able to kneel it out to hand SLU its first league loss of 2019.

“Give McNeese credit, they have a good football team, this is a tough place to play and they took it to us tonight,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “We had some chances to make some plays and just weren’t able to do it. We have to do a better job of limiting self-inflicted mistakes, but McNeese had a lot to do with that as well. We need to regroup and be ready next week to hold serve at home versus UIW.”

Chason Virgil topped 300 yards passing for the fourth consecutive game, completing 27-of-49 passes for 321 yards, as he and Cole Kelley each threw for two touchdowns apiece. The trio of Bransen Schwebel (eight catches, 94 yards, 1 TD), Lorenzo Nunez (2-91-2 TD) and CJ Turner (9-85-1 TD) were the top receiving options for the Lions.

Orgeron (12-for-29, 248 yards) and Elijah Mack (28 carries, 142 yards, 2 TD) led a Cowboy offensive effort that generated 473 total yards. Orgeron found Begue, Cyron Sutton and Davion Curtis on touchdown passes to highlight the Cowboys’ passing attack.

Alexis Ramos and Trae Drake led Southeastern with 12 tackles each. Josh Carr Jr., Ronald Cherry III and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund each recorded sacks for SLU.

First Quarter
McNeese’s Justin Jackson intercepted Virgil on Southeastern’s first drive and the hosts took advantage of the short field. Orgeron found Curtis from 20 yards out to cap a 36-yard scoring drive and give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with 9:48 left in the opening quarter.

The Lions’ next drive also resulted in a turnover, as Cory McCoy forced Devonte Williams to fumble and C.J. Semien recovered it at the Lion 39-yard line. Bailey Raborn capped the Cowboy scoring march with a 21-yard field goal to increase the lead to 10-0 with 4:45 remaining in the opening period.

Southeastern finally got on the board on its third drive of the game. A 36-yard run by Austin Mitchell highlighted a 10-play, 72-yard drive that Bryce Broussard capped with a 20-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the first quarter.

Second Quarter
Facing a third-and-11 at their own 42-yard line, McNeese came up with a big play to increase its lead. Sutton got behind the Lion defense and hauled in a 58-yard bomb from Orgeron to put the Cowboys ahead, 17-3, with 13:30 left in the second quarter.

After SLU was forced to punt, a 23-yard return by Sutton set the Cowboys up at the Lion 41-yard line. However, the Southeastern defense stiffened, forcing McNeese to turn the ball over on downs.

Southeastern was forced to punt and McNeese again found the end zone. Mack punched it in from two yards out to cap a seven-play, 57-yard scoring march that put the Cowboys ahead, 24-3, with 5:35 remaining in the opening half.

The Lions finally found pay dirt on a seven-play, 62-yard drive. On fourth-and-four from the Cowboy 10-yard line, Virgil found Turner on a quick slant to cut the McNeese lead to 24-10 with 2:42 left in the first half.

After forcing a McNeese three-and-out, Southeastern cut further into the lead in the half’s final minute. A 13-play, 94-yard drive was culminated when Kelley found Nunez from 31 yards out to pull SLU within, 24-17, headed into halftime.

Third Quarter
The teams traded two empty possessions each to start the second half, before SLU cut into the lead. The Lions drove 77 yards on 10 plays, but McNeese held Southeastern out of the end zone. SLU had to settle for a 21-yard Broussard field goal that pulled the Lions within, 24-20, with 1:09 left in the third quarter.

Fourth Quarter
After Southeastern forced a McNeese punt, the Lions took the lead on their first drive of the final period. Virgil found Nunez for a 60-yard touchdown on a third-and-10 to give SLU a 27-24 lead with 13:02 left in the game.

McNeese came right back, as Mack busted loose for a 55-yard run into SLU territory on the next play from scrimmage. Seven plays later, Mack powered in from a yard out to put the Cowboys ahead, 31-27, with 9:56 remaining in the contest.

Southeastern came up with an answer of its own with a six-play, 65-yard scoring march highlighted by a 40-yard catch-and-run by Schwebel. On fourth-and-goal from the McNeese two-yard line, Kelley found Schwebel in the back of the end zone to put the Lions back on top, 34-31, with 7:06 left.

After the teams traded three-and-outs, McNeese reclaimed the lead for the final time. A nine-play, 89-yard scoring drive was capped by a 33-yard strike from Orgeron to Begue to put the Cowboys on top, 38-34, with 2:21 left.

On the ensuing drive, the Lions turned the ball over on downs after Virgil was unable to find Mitchell on consecutive long passes. The Cowboys kneeled it out from there to secure the victory.

Up Next
Southeastern will celebrate Homecoming next Saturday, hosting UIW for a 4 p.m. contest at Strawberry Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN+ and will also air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM WFPR), online at and via the Radio FX and TuneIn Radio apps.

The 2019 Homecoming King and Queen will be announced at halftime of Saturday’s contest. The first 300 SLU students through the gates will receive a free Homecoming t-shirt.

SLU – 3 14 3 14 – 34 (3-2, 2-1 SLC)
MCN – 10 14 0 14 – 38 (3-3, 1-2 SLC)

Scoring Summary
1st Quarter
MCN – Curtis 20 pass from Orgeron (Raborn kick), 9:48
MCN – Raborn 21 FG, 4:45
SLU – Broussard 20 FG, 0:07

2nd Quarter
MCN – Sutton 58 pass from Orgeron (Raborn kick), 13:30
MCN – Mack 2 run (Raborn kick), 5:35
SLU – C. Turner 10 pass from Virgil (Broussard kick), 2:42
SLU – Nunez 31 pass from Kelley (Broussard kick), 0:23

3rd Quarter
SLU – Broussard 21 FG, 1:09

4th Quarter
SLU – Nunez 60 pass from Virgil (Broussard kick), 13:02
MCN – Mack 1 run (Raborn kick), 9:56
SLU – Schwebel 2 pass from Kelley (Broussard kick), 7:06
MCN – Begue 33 pass from Orgeron (Raborn kick), 2:21

RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 27-86 57-225 PASSING YDS (NET) 366 248
Passes Att-Comp-Int 52-30-1 29-12-0
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-70 5-87
Punt Returns-Yards 2-7 1-23
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 1-22
Punts (Number-Avg) 6-47.5 6-46.3 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 9-60 11-86
Possession Time. 28:57 31:03
Third-Down Conversions 7-of-21 7-of-18
Fourth-Down Conversions 3-of-4 2-of-4
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-4 4-4

RUSHING: SLU – Mitchell 1-36, Williams 11-23, Cooper 5-20, Conner 2-9, Kelley 3-4, Virgil 5-(-6). Totals – 27-86. MCN – Mack 28-142, Skinner 18-66, Orgeron 9-19, Team 2-(-2). Totals – 57-225.

PASSING: SLU – Virgil 27-49-1-321-2, Kelley 3-3-0-45-2. Totals – 30-52-1-366-4. MCN – Orgeron 12-29-0-248-3. Totals – 12-29-0-248-3.

RECEIVING: SLU – Turner 9-85, Schwebel 8-94, Conner 5-47, Mitchell 3-24, Nunez 2-91, Williams 2-21, Petit-Frere 1-4. Totals – 30-366. MCN – Sutton 4-82, Bonnette 2-50, Hudson 2-44, Begue 2-42, Curtis 1-20, Briscoe 1-10. Totals – 12-248.

A – 8,217.

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