McNeese rolls to win at rival Northwestern State, 35-17

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NATCHITOCHES – McNeese was hoping to get the fast start it has been looking for all season heading into Saturday’s Southland Conference football game against Northwestern State.

Although the scoring didn’t come until the second quarter, 21 points put on the board in that stanza was enough to propel the Cowboys to a 35-17 win over the Demons and picking up their first league win of the season.

McNeese (2-4, 1-2 SLC) produced big plays in all three phases of the game, holding back any chance for the Demons to mount a rally.

Just seven months ago, freshman running back Josh Parker was called into action when the injury bug hit the Cowboys in the March visit to NSU (1-5, 1-3 SLC), leading the team with 77 yards rushing in a 21-7 win. Déjà vu on Saturday when once again, Parker was thrust into action because of injuries, and for the second straight game against the Demons, provided a rushing spark as he led all rushers with 74 yards to go along with his first two collegiate touchdowns.

“We had a great game plan and everyone executed it,” said Parker who averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored on runs on 3 and 19 yards. “It doesn’t matter to me if I carry the ball just four times a game, as long as we get the win that’s all that matters.”

Parker’s second TD of the game put the Cowboys up 28-3 with 8:39 to play in the third quarter and came after McNeese converted on its second of two third down conversions of the drive – a 10-yard connection by Cody Orgeron to Mason Pierce on a 3rd-and-4 at the NSU 29.

After the Demons cut the margin to 28-10 following a Zach Clement 4-yard run, McNeese kept a drive alive on a 4th-and-7 fake punt from its own 41 when Accord Green took the snap and ran for 35 yards in open space to the NSU 24, completely catching the Demons off guard to end the third quarter. Seven plays later, Deonta McMahon appeared to have scored from two yards out, but as he approached the goal line on the right side sweep, he lost control of the ball and fumbled it away.

McNeese’s defense came up big the next possession in forcing the Demons to punt. Cowboy defensive tackle Joey McNeely, who transferred from NSU last season, had a big sack in the drive.

“That was great to get that sack,” said McNeely whose nickname is Big Hummus. “It was great to come back here and play at a place where I first started my career and seeing a lot of people I know and played with. It’s great to get the win.”

Orgeron, who had two touchdown passes on the day for his second straight multiple TD game, found KJ Brown in the back of the endzone for a 5-yard score to put the Cowboys up 35-10 with 7:36 to play. NSU added its final score with 6:02 remaining when Clement ran it in from three yards out to make it a 35-17 score.

“Our special teams did a great job today,” said head coach Frank Wilson. “They provided us with great coverage, great returns and some big plays. It was good to see our offense get points on the board. We had 21 points in the first half and we finished up strong to where we didn’t have to settle for field goals.

“Defensively I thought we played lights out. I thought we really got after them. We pinned them down when they were backed up. Even when things happened like the blocked punt, the defense got the job done and denied them from scoring.

“All-in-all – offense, defense, special teams – they provided us our first conference win against a very worthy, rival opponent.”

NSU scored first on a 26-yard Eddie Godina field goal with 2:46 to play in the first quarter and carried a 3-0 lead into the second 15 minutes.

Parker scored the first touchdown of his career on a 3-yard blast to put the Cowboys up 7-3 at the 13:13 mark of the second quarter. McNeese added two more scores in the second – a 43-yard Mason Pierce acrobatic catch and run on a play that saw him flip in the air when getting hit after making the catch then maintaining his balance to run in the final four yards for the touchdown to make it a 14-3 lead with 10:34 to play in the half; then Corione Harris scooping up a fumble and returning it 15 yards for a score to give McNeese a 21-3 lead with 4:54 to play.

Orgeron completed 16 of 25 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Matthew and McMahon each caught four passes, Matthews with 50 yards receiving and McMahon 15. Pierce, who scored his fourth touchdown in the last two games, caught three passes for 66 yards and a TD. He also returned four punts for 61 yards and two kickoffs for 61 yards to total 188 all-purpose yards.

Postgame Notes:
• Corione Harris’ fumble scoop and return for a touchdown in the second quarter was the first fumble return for a score since the 2019 season (Jovon Burriss vs. HBU).
• It’s also the first defensive score of the season for the Cowboys.
• McNeese’s defense held NSU to one first down in the second quarter.
• The Cowboys held a halftime lead (21-3) for the first time this season.
• Josh Parker’s 2 rushing touchdowns for the game were the first two of his career.
• A couple of Cowboy receivers reeled in Cody Orgeron passes with some athletic ability – In the second quarter, Mason Pierce with a 43-yard catch for a TD after taking a hit while leaping in the air, flipping over, keeping his balance and running in for a score. In the third quarter, Josh Matthews pulling in a pass with his left hand after turning his body to pull in the toss.
• McNeese outgained NSU 337-254 in total offense (161-86 rushing, 176-168 passing).
• The Cowboys defense sacked NSU four times in the game, the most sacks in a game for McNeese this season.
• McNeese held NSU to 0 passing yards in the first half and 21 in the first half.
• McNeese won for the third straight time in the series and 16th in the last 17 outings. The Cowboys improve to 49-21-1 in the overall series.
• Won its 199th Southland Conference game.
• Will host Northwestern State on November 20 in Cowboy Stadium.

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