Preview: McNeese opens Southland schedule Saturday at UIW

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Frank Wilson
Frank wilson leads the Cowboys to a conference matchup in the Alamo city (Photo: Jonathan Mailhes).

SAN ANTONIO – McNeese will open up Southland Conference play on Saturday at UIW while closing out a three-game, three-week road swing.

Kick-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. at UIW’s Benson Stadium. The game will broadcast live on ESPN+ which is available on the ESPN app on all streaming devices and smart TVs.

McNeese (1-2) is coming off a 31-24 win over Southern in its last outing while UIW (2-1) beat Texas State 42-34 for the program’s first win over an FBS program.

McNEESE CLOSES OUT ROAD TRIP WITH SLC OPENER AT UIW
• McNeese will close out its three-game road swing on Saturday when it visits UIW at 11 a.m. at Benson Stadium in San Antonio.
• The Cowboys will be opening league play against the Cardinals for the second straight season (UIW won 48-20 in Lake Charles in the spring season to start conference action).
• McNeese is coming off a 31-24 win at Southern on Saturday while UIW defeated Texas State 42-34 to pick up the program’s first-ever win over an FBS school.
• The Cowboys are 5-5 over the last 10 games when opening up league play on the road.

SERIES VS. UIW
• Saturday’s game will mark the seventh meeting between McNeese and UIW with the Cowboys holding a 4-2 lead.
• McNeese won the first four match-ups by a combined score of 181-69, an average of 45.3-17-3.
• UIW has won the last two games by a combined margin of 93-37 (46.5-18.5).
• McNeese is 2-1 in San Antonio but dropped a 45-17 game in the last outing in Benson Stadium back on October 20, 2018.

PIERCE, HARRIS GARNER SLC, LOUISIANA WEEKLY HONORS
• McNeese defensive back Corione Harris and kick returner Mason Pierce were named this week’s Southland Conference and Louisiana Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week, respectively, for their performances in last Saturday’s 31-24 win over Southern.
• Pierce became the first Cowboy football player in the 78-year history of the program to take the game’s opening kickoff for a touchdown when he sprinted 100-yards to give McNeese a 7-0 lead. It was Pierce’s second career kickoff return for a touchdown and the second time one was returned for 100 yards, the last being Chris Fontenette in the 1992 season. The return also tied a McNeese, Southland Conference and NCAA record.
• Pierce also earned National Player of the Week Honorable Mention honors by STAT Perform.
• Harris recorded six tackles, two tackles for a loss, a sack and recovered a fumble. His third quarter sack led to a Cowboy interception and a touchdown that pulled McNeese to within 21-17, then his fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys leading 28-21 resulted in a field goal to put them up by two scores at 31-21.

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 8 times for 63 yards over the last two games, an average of 4.0 penalties for 31.5 yards.
• McNeese leads the SLC and ranks No. 9 in the FCS in kickoff returns with an average of 28.6 yards per game.
• 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. 2 in the nation with a 36.0 KO yards per return.
• True freshman center Dylan Dauzart made his first collegiate start at Southern.
• The Cowboys saw five freshmen offensive linemen get action against Southern – Dauzart, Hezekiah Neason, Hayden Shaw, Aaron McDaniel and Cam Foster.
• McNeese had multiple players (3) record double-digit tackles against Southern (Kordell Williams and Darius Daniels with 11 each, Isaiah Chambers 10) for the first time since playing Sam Houston (2, 9/28/19).
• QB Cody Orgeron threw a TD pass for the 6th consecutive game dating back to the spring season, and in 19 of his 22 starts.

2ND HALF DRIVE SUCCESS
• McNeese has been a second half team through the first three games of the season and proof has been in the second half drive breakdown.
• Through three games, McNeese has scored in 8 of its 16 second half drives and 4 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
• Of the 8 scores in the second half, six have been TDs and two FGs while in the fourth quarter, 3 were TDs with one FG.
• The Cowboys have scored their most points of the season in the 4th quarter (32).
• Take out the LSU game where McNeese was 1 for 7 in second half scoring drives, the Cowboys have scored in 7 of 9 on the season and 3 of 4 drives in the fourth quarter.

2021 2nd Half Drives
Opponent 2nd Half (TD/FG) 4th Qtr (TD/FG)
vs. West Florida 3-5 (3/0) 2-3 (2/0)
at LSU 1-7 (1/0) 1-4 (1/0)
at Southern 4-4 (2/2) 1-1 (0/1)
Totals 8-16 (6/2) 4-8 (3/1)

ORGERON EXTENDS PASSING MARK
• Quarterback Cody Orgeron extended his school record to 176 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception after going 8 for 17 at Southern last Saturday.
• The NCAA record is 342 by Jimmy Blanchard of Portland State in 1999.
• The previous McNeese record was 142 and set by Cody Stroud in 2013.
• Orgeron’s streak covers the last full six games as his last interception thrown came in the final play of regulation against Lamar on March 13 this past spring.

BLUE WALL RESURRECTED
• McNeese’s Blue Wall (defensive line) and the entire DWA (Defense With Attitude) unit has been an overpowering factor in the running game for opponents.
• The Cowboys are ranked No. 2 in the SLC in rushing defense (119.3 ypg) and have allowed a league-low three rushing TDs.
• The 3.7 yards per carry allowed is second in the SLC and is 35th in the NCAA.
• After allowing 4.3 ypc against West Florida in the opener, McNeese’s defense held LSU’s running attack to 3.5 yards per carry and Southern to a 3.6 ypc mark.

STEPHON OFF AND RUNNING
• A season after leading Tulane in rushing and garnering 2nd team All-AAC honors as a running back, transfer Stephon Huderson is making himself known early in Southland Conference play and will head into Saturday’s game leading the league with 83.7 yards rushing per game.
• Huderson recorded his first 100-yard game as a Cowboy against Southern last Saturday, running for 111 yards on 23 carries.
• It was the 4th 100-yard game of his career.

READY AND ABEL
• After losing his job in the season opener against West Florida following a missed 32-yard field goal, Jacob Abel returned to the kicking duties with a bang at Southern, hitting all three field goals attempts.
• Abel also kicked off and kept the Jaguars’ starting field position at an average of the 23-yard line.
• Four times Southern was pinned inside its own 20 to start its drives while three of his final four kickoffs resulted in fair catches.

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