Offense explodes in McNeese’s 51-34 win over HBU

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HOUSTON – McNeese’s offense showed up Saturday night in the team’s Southland Conference opener against HBU as the 14th-ranked Cowboys rolled up 517 yards of total offense, including 369 through the air, to push them to a 51-34 win over the Huskies.

McNeese quarterback James Tabary set a school record with 329 first half passing yards and four passing touchdowns and ended the night with 355 yards on 25 of 32 passing with four TDs and no interceptions. He shared the wealth with 12 different sets of hands.

“That’s great when I can get the ball to that many different guys,” said the senior who started for the 24th straight game behind center and has the Cowboys at 2-0 on the year. “That creates problems for defenses because they don’t know who’s going to get the ball.”

Tabary also improved on his career school record with his sixth 300-yard passing game.

Senior wide receiver Kylon Highshaw led the squad with five catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns marking the first time in his career to haul in multiple TD passes in a game.

Tight end Austin Nelson had a touchdown catch as did wide receiver Cyron Sutton.

McNeese built a comfortable 37-14 halftime lead then led 44-14 after Cody Orgeron connected with Highshaw on a 14-yard score early in the third quarter. It was Orgeron’s first TD pass of his collegiate career.

But then the Huskies (0-2, 0-1) revved up the tempo and scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to cut the McNeese lead to 44-27 by the end of the third quarter. But the Cowboys had a hand in that as HBU took advantage of a couple of broken defensive plays that resulted in long gains, a dropped McNeese interception, and some pivotal penalties.

“We had some times where we had broken plays on defense but there are too many times where teams make excuses for their play,” said head coach Lance Guidry who has the Cowboys 1-0 in conference play for the first time since 2015. “I give a lot of credit to them (HBU). They hit some big plays and then got a running game going late.”

McNeese’s defense mounted some big plays of its own.

Cornerback Darion Dunn intercepted two passes and led the team with five tackles; defensive end Cody Roscoe recorded two of the Cowboys’ four sacks on the night; and DE Tyrique Gibson, in making his first career start, had a sack and recovered two fumbles.

Tabary was rolling in the first half, completing 22 of 27 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns – both school records for most yards and TD in a half. He was 11 of 12 for 188 yards and two TDs in the first quarter including a 65-yard strike to Sutton to put McNeese up 21-0 with 5:36 to play in the first quarter.

HBU got on the board on a 1-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 57-yard pass from Zappe to Aaron Marquez to make it a 21-7 game by the end of the first quarter.

Highshaw caught his first touchdown of the game on a 5-yard sliding grab to put McNeese up 27-7 early in the second. HBU closed the gap to 27-14 on a 10-yard toss from Zappe to Jeremy Smith on another score that was set up by a long play, this time a 33-yard connection from Zappe to Nick Sexton.

McNeese responded with scores on a 34-yard field goal by Gunnar Raborn and a 26-yard strike by Tabary to Trevor Begue to put the Cowboys up 37-14 at the half.

After the break, HBU turned the momentum after Orgeron’s touchdown pass to Highshaw by scoring 13 straight points to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 44-27.

But the second half of the Orgeron twins, Parker Orgeron, shifted the momentum back McNeese’s way when he returned a punt 59-yards for a touchdown to put McNeese up 51-27 with 12:04 to play.

HBU got one more score on the board before the clock ran out.

Zapped completed 18 of 35 passes for 348 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while Dreshawn Minnieweather led all rushers with 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Justin Pratt led McNeese with 60 yards on the ground while Ryan Ross added 39 yards. As a team, McNeese rushed for 148 yards while HBU rolled up 145 yards on the ground.

McNeese will return to action next Saturday when it hosts Nicholls in Cowboy Stadium to open its home season.

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