LAKE CHARLES, La. – A quick 21-0 lead in just four drives – which later turned to 28-3 by halftime – staked McNeese to an early advantage in a 41-10 win in the final game of 2016, over the Lamar University Football Saturday night at Cowboy Stadium in Southland Conference action.
The Pokes (6-5, 5-4 Southland) took the opening drive, which started at their 48, and popped a quick 29-yard pass completion from James Tabary to Tavari Batiste that put them on the 6-yard line. Ross Ryan punched it in on the ground; all three of McNeese’s first touchdowns were on the ground.
Lamar (3-8, 3-5) looked to be winning the battle of field position in the first quarter, but MSU flipped that with an 18-play, 94-yard drive that started at its six. On that drive, capped by a three yard rush by Dylan Long to score, had four third down conversions and one play over 10 yards – a Kylon Highshaw reception for 23. The drive spanned more than eight minutes.
MSU’s third scoring drive was 84 yards, but only in three plays. It started with a flea flicker completion to Darious Crawley for 63 yards, which moved McNeese from its 16 to Lamar’s 21.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Pokes squibbed a kick which landed at the Lamar 43. Freshman quarterback Adam Morse connected with Michael Handy for the Cards’ second-longest play of the game of 28 yards. Morse eventually completed three more passes on the drive - two to Marcus Daggs – but was stalled when he was sacked for seven yards by Chris Livings. Juan Carranco booted a 37-yard field goal to get LU on the board; the series spanned 4:36 and was 10 plays and 46 yards.
“We were going to have to play near-perfect to stay with (McNeese),” said head coach Ray Woodard. “They came out with a lot of energy. They did some really good things and we made a bunch of mistakes.
“I like the way we didn’t get down and stay down in the second half,” he added. “I liked the way we fought.
Down 28-3, the Cardinals were working on a drive late in the third quarter – still holding the Pokes scoreless in the quarter – but Morse threw a pass into coverage that was intercepted by Jermaine Antwan, who took it 65 yards for the score.
In its first drive in the fourth quarter, Lamar took over on the McNeese 36 after Tanner Kanteman forced a fumble fell on by Koby Couron. Nick Edwards got free on a pass completion, but Kanteman was able to come from behind and knock the ball away from him.
After two incompletions and a four-yard run from Austin Krautz, Morse scrambled left on fourth down and found senior Martell Hawthorne wide open and walked in for a 32-yard touchdown reception, cutting the lead to 35-10. Morse was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
The Cardinals finished with 229 total yards of offense on 79 plays. Morse was 24-of-62 for 182 passing yards and had one touchdown with two interceptions. His second interception was on a last-ditch effort on a fourth down play. Zae Giles was his favorite target for 47 yards on nine receptions, both team leads.
Kendrick King rushed for 25 yards on seven rushes. He and Krautz (six rushes, 17 yards) led the team’s 34 rushing yards.
Kanteman finished with a personal season-high 15 tackles, followed by seven from senior Xavier Bethany, five by Jaylon Bowden and four from Daniel Crosley. Crosley had a tackle for loss.
McNeese racked up 452 total yards, the third most Lamar has given up all season, on 294 passing and 158 rushing yards. Tabary was 18-of-29 for 235 yards and a touchdown. He threw to Batiste four times for 57 yards and Highshaw three times for 47. Justin Pratt was the team leader for 47 yards on nine rush.