LAKE CHARLES, La. – Winning at Cowboy Stadium is one of the toughest feats in FCS football, but the Sam Houston State Bearkats did just that in a 28-17 gutcheck win on Saturday night.
The Bearkats (3-2, 2-0 SLC) never led in the first half, but scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and held McNeese (2-3, 0-2 SLC) to just 111 yards of total offense in the second half to come away with a win in the first meeting between the teams since a 56-43 shootout in 2016.
Ty Brock came off the bench to run the offense and completed just 14 of his 29 pass attempts, but after throwing two first-half picks finished with 262 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
One of those touchdowns came in the first half to senior Nathan Stewart, who finished with six catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in the game.
Brock spread the ball around to eight different receivers, including Chandler Harvin whose second grab of the night went for a 12-yard score with 11:13 to play in the game, capping an 18-play drive that put the Kats ahead for good.
Kyran Jackson rushed for 111 yards and a score, including 74 yards in the second half for his third 100-yard rushing game of his career.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
Neither team was able to muster much on the ground in the opening minutes, but the Kats were also hampered by three turnovers. An isolated downpour just after kickoff dampened the first SHSU drive of the game as the Kats were unable to handle multiple shotgun snaps, but did not lose a fumble until the second drive of the game.
McNeese, meanwhile, held on to the ball and got a nice half from quarterback Cody Orgeron as he passed for 192 yards and a pair of scores. The first came late in the opening quarter when he connected with Cyron Sutton for a 67-yard score, the first of the game, and he would later add a 27-yard strike to Draysean Hudson.
Meanwhile, the Kats got 120 yards and a touchdown from Nathan Stewart, but otherwise struggled to move the ball. Still, they were able to knot things up at 7-7 with 12:00 to play in the half after consecutive completions by Ty Brock to Stewart went for 43 yards and then a 21-yard touchdown.
The Kats also got on the board courtesy of their defense late in the half after a 53-yard punt from Matt McRobert pinned the Cowboys inside their own 5-yard line. Two plays later Scean Mustin surged through the line, taking down Orgeron for a safety to cut the lead to 14-9.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
The teams traded empty possessions to open up the third quarter, but the Kats were the first to be able to cash in on a big play when Brock found Noah Smith on a screen pass and the freshman did the rest, zigging and zagging his way to a 61-yard touchdown that put SHSU up 15-14 less than six minutes into the quarter.
McNeese answered on the strength of a 43-yard field goal from Bailey Raborn, the first field goal of his career, quickly retaking the lead with a 17-15 lead with 3:47 left after a 10-play drive that went just 35 yards.
The Kats then took the ball on their own 27-yard line and went to work, running 18 plays over the next 7:32 to close out the third quarter and work into the fourth quarter. That drive included a pair of fourth-down conversions and ended when Brock hit Harvin for a 12-yard score that put the Kats in front 21-17.
McNeese ran just two plays on the ensuing drive before Dwayne Williams picked off Orgeron and returned the ball up to the Bearkat 44. Two plays later Brock connected with Stewart for 37 yards to the Cowboy 5-yard line, Stewart’s only grab of the second half, to set up Jackson who took it the final five yards for the score.
The Cowboys had one final chance to try to put points on the board, taking over with 2:31 to play, but Ke’Shon Murray reeled in the second Orgeron pick of the night to seal the game.
- The Bearkats moved to 2-0 in Southland Conference play for the first time since 2016
- The Kats won their third straight game in the series with McNeese, which is the first time in the history of the series that has dated back to 1951 that they have done that. It is also the third time in series history that the Kats have won in consecutive trips to Lake Charles.
- Head coach K.C. Keeler is now 4-1 all-time vs McNeese.
- In two career games vs McNeese, Nathan Stewart has racked up 15 catches for 425 yards and four touchdowns receiving.
- The Kats held McNeese to just 111 yards of offense in the second half with 41 of that coming on the Cowboys’ final drive.
- The Kats forced their only turnovers of the game in the second half late in the game on interceptions by Dwayne Williams and Ke’Shon Murray. It was the first career interception for each player.
- Brock was 8-for-13 passing for 147 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half.
The Bearkats will head to NRG Stadium for the Battle of the Piney Woods against longtime rival Stephen F. Austin. Kickoff is set for 3:05 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN+.