LAKE CHARLES, La. — Freshman Major Bowden rushed for 92 yards, and sophomore Khalan Griffin had 83 yards to lead a ground attack that put up more than 200 rushing yards but Lamar University dropped the annual Battle of the Border, 24-20, Saturday evening at Cowboy Stadium. The loss ends LU’s season at 1-10 overall and 1-5 in Southland Conference play.
The Cardinals ended the night with 369 yards of total offense, with 219 of those coming on the ground. Big Red outgained the Cowboys who finished the game with 314 yards.
Senior Nick Yockey got the start and completed 19-of-27 passes for 150 yards. Bowden and Griffin combined for 175 yards and a touchdown to lead the Cardinals’ ground attack.
The Cardinals held the ball for 11 minutes more than their guests, but were hurt by two costly fumbles.
The Cardinals struck first after a scoreless opening quarter. LU forced a punt and got the ball back deep in their own territory. On third and long, Yockey dumped the ball off to Major Bowden over the middle for 18 yards and followed that up with a 30-yard scamper from Bowden. The two plays put LU in McNeese territory for first time and set up the first score of the game. The drive would end with a four-yard run for a touchdown. Griffin’s scoring run capped a 16-play, 92-yard drive that took 7:43 off the clock. Unfortunately, the momentum didn’t last as McNeese answered just two plays later when Deonta McMahon responded with a 79-yard run up the middle for the equalizer
Looking to respond, Griffin rattled off a 42-yard run on the first play of the ensuing drive, only to see the Cardinals fumble the ball on the next play which was recovered by the Cowboys and returned 78 yards to give McNeese its first lead of the game.
After the Cowboys built their lead to 11 points, 21-10, when Bowden had an answer on special teams. The China Springs native took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 98 yards down the near sideline for the score. The return – LU’s second kickoff return for a score this season – pulled Big Red back to within four, 21-17.
The Cardinals outgained their hosts in the first half. LU recorded 258 yards of offense including 173 on the ground. Griffin had 77 rushing yards at the break. McNeese finished the half with 248 yards, including 227 on the ground.
The third quarter shaped up to be a mirror image of the first with neither team able to dent the scoreboard. LU broke through with 3:44 remaining when Chris Esqueda booted a 43-yard field goal to trim the deficit down to one, 21-20.
The Cardinals got the ball back early in the fourth and appeared to be driving for the lead, but a fumble handed momentum over to McNeese. The Cowboys drove the ball down to the LU 19 to set up a 36-yard Garrison Smith field goal to take a four-point lead, 24-20.
Late in the fourth quarter, LU got the ball back and moved the ball out near midfield. On third and three, the Cardinals completed a pass to Izaha Jones who appeared to have a first down to keep the drive alive but after review it was ruled that he stepped out shy of the line to gain. The Cardinals were forced the punt the ball away McNeese was able to run out the clock.