Preview: McNeese looks to turn corner in home tilt with Southeastern

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Maason smith #0
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

LAKE CHARLES – McNeese will be looking to turn things in the positive direction this Saturday when the Cowboys host 15th-ranked Southeastern Louisiana in Southland Conference action for the first home game since the season opener nearly a month ago.

Kick-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. in Cowboy Stadium. The game will broadcast live on CST and ESPN+ while also being carried on the McNeese Sports Network (92.9 The Lake and 929thelake.com).

McNeese (1-3, 0-1) is coming off a disappointing 31-0 loss at UIW last Saturday in its conference opener while SLU (2-1, 0-0) had the week off and will be opening up its league season.

“I was surprised by the way we played,” said second-year head coach Frank Wilson. “We had a really good week of practice and felt like we were well prepared. We’ll be ready to play this Saturday against a really good team.”

The Lions will come into Cowboy Stadium ranking No. 1 in the conference and third in the FCS in scoring offense (49.0 ppg), total offense (554.7 ypg) and passing offense (411.7 ypg). Quarterback Cole Kelley, last season’s Walter Payton Award winner, has thrown for 1,202 yards and 10 touchdowns in three games this season and tossed a career-high 495 yards with three TDs in a three-point loss at Louisiana Tech in the season opener.

Defensively, SLU and McNeese are ranked No. 1 and 2 in the conference in rushing defense, the Lions allowing 115.7 ypg and McNeese 118.8. The Cowboys held UIW to 31 points last week, the first time in four games the Cardinals were held under 40 on the season.

POKES RETURN HOME FOR FIRST TIME SINCE SEASON OPENER
• McNeese will be back in The Hole on Saturday for the first time since the September 4 season opener when it hosts No. 15/16 Southeastern at noon.
• The Cowboys will enter Saturday’s game ranked No. 2 in the SLC in rushing defense (120.5) while Southeastern is No. 1 (115.7).
• SLU is ranked 1st in total defense (380.7) and total offense (553.3) while the Cowboys are 3rd in total defense (400.2) and 5th in offense (294.8).
• The Cowboys are 4-1 in last 5 home games vs. ranked opponents.

SERIES VS. SOUTHEASTERN
• Saturday’s game will be the 47th meeting in the all-time series with McNeese holding down a 25-21 lead and is 14-11 against the Lions as Southland Conference members.
• SLU beat McNeese 25-20 this past spring in Hammond while the Cowboys defeated the Lions 38-34 in 2019 in the last meeting that was played in Cowboy Stadium.
• McNeese is 18-6 in against SLU in Cowboy Stadium and have won the last three games.
• The last Lions win in The Hole came on Nov. 2, 2013 by way of a 41-7 victory.
• The home team has won the last seven games in the series.

POKIN’ AROUND
• McNeese has won 198 all-time games in Southland Conference play, more than any other league team past or present.
• After being flagged for 12 penalties for 110 yards in the opener against West Florida, the Cowboys have been flagged a total of 14 times for 109 yards over the last three games, an average of 4.7 penalties for 36.3 yards during that span.
• McNeese ranks No. 2 in the SLC and 30th in the FCS in kickoff returns with an average of 23.9 yards per return.
• Mason Pierce’s 100-yard return to start the game at Southern was the first ever for McNeese to open the game with an KOR for a TD.
• He’s also only the second player in school history to return a kickoff for 100 yards (Chris Fontenette in 1992).
• Pierce is ranked No. 1 in the SLC and No. 8 in the nation with a 31.3 KO yards per return.
• Two true freshmen offensive linemen made their first collegiate starts over the last two games – center Dylan Dauzart at Southern and most recently, left tackle Cam Foster at UIW.
• LB Kordell Williams is 3rd in the SLC and 47th nationally with 8.3 tackles per game. Williams leads the team with 33 total tackles and has recorded 10 or more stops in three straight games.
• QB Cody Orgeron has thrown a TD pass in 19 of his 23 starts in his career and saw a streak of six consecutive games with a scoring toss come to an end at UIW.

WILSON, SCELFO REUNITE
• McNeese head coach Frank Wilson and SLU head coach Frank Scelfo have a long, friendly history between the two.
• The two roomed together at the Manning Passing Academy when it was first getting started in the 90s and held at Tulane.
• When Wilson was hired as the head coach at UTSA before the 2016 season, he hired Scelfo as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Scelfo left after 2017 season to become the head coach at SLU.

WELCOME TO “THE HOLE”
• This fall will mark the 57th season of McNeese football being played in Cowboy Stadium, aka, the Hole.
• The unique setting was constructed in the early 1960s with a target date to open up in 1964, however, work issues backed the date up to Sept. 18, 1965, where the Cowboys dropped a 16-12 game to Tampa in the stadium’s first-ever game.
• The Hole, which is nestled 12 feet below normal ground level, was created by over 80,000 cubic yards of soil being removed.
• Original capacity was 12,000 and expanded in 1975 to increase capacity to 17,410. Seating along the hills allow capacity to be as much as 20,000.
• In 2008 the natural grass field was replaced by an artificial turf which was named Louis Bonnette Field in honor of McNeese’s longtime SID who retired in 2012 after a 46-year career.
• The turf was replaced in 2018 and then again in 2020 following damage caused by Hurricane Laura and Delta.
• McNeese is 216-95-5 all-time in Cowboy Stadium and 103-44-3 in home Southland Conference games.

COWBOYS AGAINST RANKED TEAMS
• Saturday’s game will mark the first game of the season for the Cowboys against an FCS ranked opponent as Southeastern will enter No. 15/16 in the polls.
• The Cowboys are 4-1 vs. ranked opponents at home in last five games.
• Saturday will mark the 11th straight game where at least one of the teams is ranked in the Top 25 (SLU has won 6 of the 10).
• The Cowboys are 1-1 when only SLU is ranked; 2-3 when McNeese is ranked; and 1-2 when both teams are ranked.
• Overall, 13 times the teams have met with at least one team ranked with SLU holding a 7-6 edge in those outcomes.

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