McNeese hosts Southern to open Sterlin Gilbert era

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LAKE CHARLES – The Sterlin Gilbert Era of McNeese football kicks off on Saturday night when the Cowboys host Southern in a game that is expected to draw the largest crowd in Cowboy Stadium in nearly 20 years.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Cox Sports TV and on ESPN+ for those outside of the CST viewing area.

Gilbert, who was named McNeese’s 16th head coach in December, brings a new look offense and defense to the program, one that is sure to bring a spark back to McNeese football.

“I’m excited about what our players have done since we’ve been here,” said Gilbert. “Our staff and the work that’s been put in to what the moment will be on Saturday. It’s a great opportunity to be able to start right here at home in front of our fans and community. That’s a big deal. Excited about the environment our kids will play in front of.”

Saturday’s game will be just the second meeting ever between the Cowboys and Jaguars with McNeese winning the previous contest back in 2004 in Baton Rouge by a 35-18 score. The two teams were scheduled to open up the 2005 season in Lake Charles, but effects of Hurricane Katrina forced the cancellation of that contest.

Tickets are still available but are going fast. The McNeese ticket office will open at noon on Saturday.

GAMEDAY NOTES
• Junior QB Cody Orgeron will make his debut as a season-opening starter. Orgeron played in all 11 games last season, starting three, and completed 56 percent of his passes for 406 yards while rushing for another 148.
• Senior DE Chris Livings returns for his fifth season and is on the cusp of breaking the all-time sack record. The Lake Charles native has recorded 20.5 QB sacks in his career and is 10.5 shy of Bryan Smith’s (2004-07) record of 31.
• McNeese has produced a winning season for 14 consecutive years, ranking as the fourth-longest streak among active FCS teams.
• The Cowboys have compiled a 105-52 (.669) record during the winning season streak with four Southland Conference titles and five FCS playoff appearances.
• The Cowboys have won 7 or more games four out of the last seven seasons and have recorded 10 wins twice (2013, 2015) during that stretch.
• Since 2000, McNeese has produced 8 or more wins nine times.

VS. THE SWAC
• Saturday’s game will be the 13th meeting for the Cowboys against a member of the SWAC.
• The Cowboys have posted a perfect 12-0 mark against six SWAC teams in previous meetings.
• The last time McNeese played a SWAC member was in 2017 when the Cowboys defeated Alcorn State 34-27 in Mississippi.
• McNeese will host Alcorn State in week three of this season.
• The Cowboys are 4-0 vs. Prairie View, 3-0 vs. Alcorn State, 2-0 vs. Grambling, and 1-0 vs. Southern and Texas Southern.

McNeese All-Time vs. SWAC
9.16.17 at Alcorn State W, 34-27
9.13.14 vs. Prairie View W, 48-16
9.7.13 vs. Ark.-Pine Bluff W, 58-14
10.8.05 #vs. Texas Southern W, 46-28
9.4.04 at Southern W, 35-18
9.20.03 at Grambling W, 31-20
8.31.02 vs. Grambling W, 52-20
9.22.01 vs. Alcorn State W, 54-14
9.8.01 vs. Prairie View W, 56-0
9.23.00 at Alcorn State W, 41-12
9.9.00 at Prairie View W, 41-0
9.6.86 vs. Prairie View W, 57-2
# – Game played at Northwestern State due to damage caused to Cowboy Stadium by Hurricane Rita

SEASON OPENER SUCCESS
• The Cowboys are 7-3 in season openers the last 10 seasons with two of those losses coming against Nebraska and Kansas.
• McNeese is opening up the season at home for the first time since 2016 when it defeated Tarleton State by a 33-3 score.
• The Cowboys have won seven straight season openers at home with the last loss coming in 1999 to Northern Iowa by a 41-17 score.
• McNeese has won 14 straight home openers, ranking as the 8th longest current streak in the FCS.

Opening Season at Home Winning Streak
9/3/16 vs. Tarleton State (W, 33-3)
9/12/15 vs. Incarnate Word (W, 43-6)#
9/4/10 vs. Lamar (W, 30-27)
9/5/09 vs. Henderson State (W, 27-24)
9/1/07 vs. Portland State (W, 35-12)
8/30/03 vs. Henderson State (W, 42-0)
8/31/02 vs. Grambling (W, 52-20)

FCS Home Opener Winning Streaks
20 North Dakota State (1999-present)
19 Central Arkansas (2000-present)
18 Wofford (2001-present)
18 Harvard (2001-present)
16 South Dakota State (2003-present)
16 James Madison (2003-present)
15 Montana (2004-present)
14 McNeese (2005-present)
13 Richmond (2006-present)
13 Jacksonville State (2006-present)

ATTENDANCE WATCH
• Saturday’s game vs. Southern is expected to draw the largest crowd for a game since 2002 when the Cowboys hosted Grambling that brought in 20,300 fans.
• That ranks as the largest crowd in Cowboy Stadium since accurate attendance records started in 1990.
• With a capacity of 17,610, Cowboy Stadium has seen 20,000 or more just three times since 1984.
• 20,000 saw McNeese take on Troy in the 1993 playoff quarterfinals and 20,180 witnessed the No. 1-ranked Cowboys defeat Youngstown State 31-3 in 1995.

NEW REGIME, NEW SIDELINE
• For the first time ever in Cowboy Stadium, the McNeese football squad will possess the “home” sideline (press box side).
• Since playing in Cowboy Stadium with its construction in 1965, the Cowboys have always used the “visitor” sideline as their side.
• First-year head coach made the decision to switch for the 2019 year to have the Cowboys now on the press box side.
• The coaching staff will also take on a new look for the exception of running backs coach Landon Hoefer, who was the lone holdover from last year’s staff.

ALL-CONFERENCE COWBOYS
• Three McNeese Cowboys were named to the 2019 Preseason All-SLC team – defensive end Chris Livings, cornerback Colby Burton, and offensive lineman Grant Burguillos.
• In 2018, Burguillos earned All-SLC and All-Louisiana second team postseason honors after starting in all 11 games. He played a team-high 674 snaps and allowed just two sacks all season.
• Burton, a 2018 All-SLC 1st team selection and All-Louisiana 2nd team member, started all 11 games last season and tied for the team lead with two pass interceptions to go along with 31 tackles and eight passes defended.
• Livings, a 2018 second team All-SLC and All-Louisiana selection, ranked second on the team with eight sacks to go along with 10.5 tackles for a loss.

COWBOY GRADUATES
• McNeese has six players in this year’s squad that have already received their bachelor’s degree: DL Marval Bourgeois, DL Jonta Jones, DE Chris Livings, OL Blaise Scriber, WR Rhashid Bonnette, LB Justin Jackson.

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