BEAUMONT, Texas – Lamar University scored three touchdowns on special teams but could not overcome two late Incarnate Word scores dropping their fourth consecutive game. UIW scored 14 unanswered points in the game’s final six minutes to record a 35-28 decision Saturday evening at Provost Umphrey Stadium.
A game that saw a combined 14 points in the opening half finished with a flurry. The two teams closed out the contest by scoring 49 points in the second half. The game looked like it would be an offensive explosion from the opening kick as the two schools scored their first-half touchdowns within the game’s first 71 seconds but the defenses gained control for the rest of the half.
Incarnate Word outgained LU by nearly 200 yards (443-254) as Big Red could manage only one offensive score. LU finished the night with 339 yards between kick and punt returns.
Freshman quarterback Adam Morse completed 25-of-44 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. He connected with eight different targets, including sophomore Zae Giles who hauled in 10 receptions for 51 yards.
“This is a bittersweet night,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “That may have been the best special teams’ play of any game I’ve ever been a part of. We did so much with our special teams tonight that you feel we wasted a good effort by not doing enough in other phases of the game.
“Brendan is a very special player. We’ve been able to see what he can do from his corner back position all year, but he was freed up to make some plays tonight on special teams. It was a very special night for him and I hate that his effort didn’t get a win,” added Woodard.
The game started with a bang as Giles took the opening kick 98 yards for a touchdown – it was the first time this season LU has returned a kick for a score – but the excitement didn’t last long. San Antonio’s version of the Cardinals answered back 57 seconds later when UIW’s Trent Brittain hit Kody Edwards for a 65-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7. That would be the game’s final score until 13:11 remaining in the third quarter.
The defenses dominated the rest of the half as both schools combined for 226 yards of total offense in the opening 30 minutes.
As if following the script from the start of the game, the Cardinals got another special teams’ score to start a half. After forcing a three-and-out, senior Brendan Langley went back to field Oscar Draguicevich’s punt. Langley took the ball on his own 10 and returned it 90 yards for a score as LU reclaimed a seven-point advantage. Just like Giles’ opening kick return, it was the first time the Cardinals returned a punt for a touchdown this season.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next possession and UIW got the ball back and quickly moved down the field. Taylor Laird hit Marquis Lawson from 35 yards to cap a four-play, 67-yard drive. UIW took its first lead of the game nearly seven minutes later when Brittain hit Jordan Hicks on a 30-yard pass forcing the Cardinals to play from behind.
It appeared the UIW defense got a stop on the next series forcing Big Red to punt the ball from its own 33. Senior Juan Carranco booted a 41-yard punt which was bobbled by Lawson at the UIW 26. LU recovered the muffed return and Morse took advantage of the momentum swing on the very next play. Morse hit DeWan Thompson over the middle from 26 yards out for the game-tying score, 21-21.
After forcing a stop early in the fourth quarter it was Langley who came up with another big play. This time Langley fielded the UIW punt on his own 25 yard line and weaved his way through traffic for his second touchdown return of the night. The score gave the Red and White a seven-point advantage, 28-21, with just over 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
The visitors answered back with two touchdown runs from Dorland Fields (9 and 15 yards, respectively) to give his team back a seven-point lead, 35-28. After being forced to punt the ball away with 1:30 on the clock, it appeared the game was over, but the LU defense forced UIW to punt the ball back in just 20 seconds giving the LU offense one more shot with 1:10 remaining.
Morse hit Giles for a 17-yard reception on the first play to move the ball out near midfield. The Cardinals got the ball across the 50 on the next play, but consecutive incomplete passes brought up a 4th-and-5 from the 49. Morse took the snap and as he began to move in the pocket he was dropped for a loss.
The Cardinals will look to put an end to its four-game slide next week as they close out the season at McNeese. The game against the Cowboys will kick off at 6 p.m. from Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La.