Offense rolls, defense dominates for McNeese in 42-27 win over HBU

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LAKE CHARLES – McNeese’s offense racked up a season-high 567 total yards while the defense held the nation’s No. 2 total offensive team to almost 200 yards under its season average as the Cowboys took down the Huskies 42-27 on Homecoming here Saturday.

The win kept the Cowboys alive in the playoff hunt by evening their record to 4-4 on the season and 2-3 in Southland Conference play while HBU fell to 4-4 and 1-3.

A week after setting a new school record with 403 total offensive yards, quarterback Cody Orgeron accounted for 383 on Saturday with his second straight 300-yard passing game (303) and 80 yards rushing. His 69-yard touchdown run with 2:56 to play in the fourth quarter put the game on ice.

“I’m extremely proud of our effort,” said head coach Sterlin Gilbert. “I’m proud of our physicality and extremely proud of the intensity that we played with.”

In addition to holding HBU to a season-low 347 total yards, 184 yards under its season average, the Huskies were held 18 points under their average scoring mark of 45 points per game which ranked them No. 1 in the nation.

And after the Cowboys took a 28-20 lead into the half, McNeese handcuffed the Huskies to just seven second half points as it became the first team this season to hold them to zero points in the third quarter.

“Win the third quarter,” said safety Jovon Burriss who had a strip sack for an 11-yard touchdown score midway through the second quarter to put McNeese up 28-14. “We always want to come out of the locker room and pitch a shutout in the second half.”

That was the case until 2:11 to play in the fourth when HBU quarterback Bailey Zappe tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Ben Ratzlaff to close the gap to 42-27.

McNeese recovered an onside kick then was able to run out the clock after running back Justin Pratt picked up 24 yards on two carries with the latter being a 14-yard run to put him at 100 yards rushing on the night.

“He’s an extremely hard worker,” said Orgeron about Pratt. “It was great to see him get some great runs in that really helped us out.”

Pratt scored his first touchdown of the season on a 13-yard run after breaking several tackles which was the only score by either team in the third quarter. That touchdown put the Cowboys up 35-20 with 1:59 to play in the period.

Wide receivers Cyron Sutton and Trevor Begue each reeled in over 100 yards receiving to become the first duo since the 2016 season to achieve the feat. Begue caught a career-best nine passes for a career-high 121 yards while Sutton pulled in six passes for 116 yards. Both had touchdowns as Sutton set a new school record with his sixth straight game catching a touchdown pass.

Also setting a school record for the game was defensive lineman Cody Roscoe with six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

“That’s huge,” said Gilbert. “When that happens it affects the flow of the offense.”

Elijah Mack put the Cowboys on the board first on a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:39 to play in the first quarter. That scoring play was set up after HBU had an interception overturned after a Huskie was flagged for roughing the passer on Orgeron on a third down play.

Five plays later, Mack barreled it in for the score and a 7-0 lead.

“That was a big sigh of relief,” said Orgeron. “I knew then we had to go down and score.”

Orgeron ended the night completing 24 of 31 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 80 yards on 10 carries with a score.

As a team, the Cowboys rolled up 264 yards on the ground and three TDs as Mack finished with 58 yards, J’Cobi Skinner with 44 and D’Andre Hicks with four yards.

The lead grew to 14-0 when Orgeron found Trevor Begue for a 31-yard score with 5:44 to play in the first. HBU put numbers on the board for the first time with a 5-yard Zappe pass to Trevor Larkin to make it 14-7 at the 2:37 mark of the first quarter.

McNeese got the TD back on its next possession when Orgeron connected with Sutton, who made two defenders miss then worked off a nice block by Begue to spring him free for a 69-yard sprint to the end zone and a 21-7 lead just 12 seconds into the second quarter.

The Huskies scored on their ensuing possession to make it a 21-14 game then after a McNeese punt and HBU facing a third-and-3 at its own 27, Cowboys’ safety Jovon Burriss blitzed up the middle to force Zappe to fumble as Burriss recovered at the 11 and ran it in for the touchdown and giving McNeese a 28-14 lead with 6:03 to play in the second quarter.

HBU scored right before the end of the first half but missed the extra point as the Cowboys took a 28-20 lead into the break.

Justin Pratt scored his first TD on the season on a 13-yard run to put McNeese up 35-20 with 1:59 to play in the third quarter.

McNeese will be back in action next Saturday when it visits Stephen F. Austin.

Notables:
• Third straight game McNeese scored 30 points or more.
• Cody Orgeron’s second quarter 69-yard touchdown pass to Cyron Sutton was the longest scoring play of the season.
• He followed that by matching that mark with a 69-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
• Orgeron reached the 300-yard passing mark for the second straight game.
• WR Cyron Sutton caught a pass for the 17th straight game.
• Sutton and Begue each reached the 100-yard receiving mark making it the first time since 2016 McNeese had two players over the century mark (Darious Crawley and Tavarious Battiste).
• S Jovon Burriss’ second quarter fumble return for a TD was his first career score.
• Orgeron has thrown multiple TDs in four straight games and six games on the season.
• Redshirt freshman OL Nick Holiday got his first collegiate start, that coming at left tackle.
• McNeese shut out HBU in the third quarter making it the first time this season the Huskies were held to zero points in the quarter.
• McNeese is now 4-1 at home on the season.
• The win was the eighth straight for the Cowboys in Homecoming games and 56-19-1 overall.

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