LAKE CHARLES – A true freshman stole the show on senior day as Kelvin Bennett rushed for 112 yards on just four carries, including a school and Cowboy Stadium record 93 yard touchdown sprint as McNeese State closed out the 2012 season with a 35-0 shutout
against Lamar on Saturday.
It was the first shutout by the Cowboys since a 56-0 blanking over Savannah State in 2009, and the first time to shutout a Southland opponent since 2000 in a 28-0 win over former conference member Jacksonville State.
The win ends the Cowboys’ season at 7-4, 4-3 in the Southland Conference, and was the team’s eighth consecutive winning season. Lamar ended its slate at 4-8 and 1-6 in the league.
“I thought we had great rhythm on offense,” said McNeese coach Matt Viator, whose squad racked up 422 total yards, including 250 after halftime. “Defensively, we made some good adjustments to what they were doing and played really well in the second half.”
Junior defensive end Chris Loveless joined Bennett in the record book with three recovered fumbles. That also tied a conference record.
“This is a great way to end the season,” Loveless said. “It’s special to give our seniors this kind of a send off.”
Lamar came out and moved the ball well against the Cowboys in the first quarter on its first three possessions, but all three drives ended with fumbles that were recovered by Loveless.
McNeese led 14-0 at the break after Marcus Wiltz scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and a 46-yard touchdown strike from Cody Stroud to Diontae Spencer with 21 seconds to play in the second quarter when the Cowboys ran a 2-minute offense to perfection
in a series that started with a 13-yard pass to Spencer and lasted just 25 seconds.
“I love running the two-minute offense,” Stroud said. “This is a great way to end the season.”
The win sends off 22 seniors who helped lead McNeese to 28 wins and a conference championship during their career.
“These are a great group of kids,” Viator said. “This was a really big win for McNeese, our fans and the city of Lake Charles.”
McNeese turned on the gas offensively in the second half and put the foot on the brakes defensively.
The Cardinals rolled up 151 total yards in the first half, including 126 on the ground. Things were the opposite in the second half as the McNeese defense stuffed Lamar to just 66 total yards and 23 on the ground.
Meanwhile, the offense got cranked up, sparked by a 93-yard jaunt by Bennett after the Cardinals just pinned the Cowboys back on their own 7-yard line. That came after Stroud hit Kendale Thomas on a 2-yard route and McNeese led 28-0 with 6:17 to play in
the third quarter.
Lamar had an opportunity to end the shutout but missed on a 32-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys stayed with their ground game the rest of the way and got a 20-yard scamper by Bennett followed by a 33-yard run from Darius Carey to put the Cowboys at the Lamar 29. Four plays later, Carey ran it in from 20-yards out to give McNeese a 35-0
lead with 3:42 to play.
McNeese rolled up 422 yards of total offense with 264 coming on the ground. It’s the sixth time this season the Cowboys have rushed for more than 200 yards, all wins.
Following Bennett’s 112-yard game, Wiltz added 72 yards and a touchdown and Carey finished with 63 yards and a score.
Stroud completed 10 of 18 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns and for the fourth time this season, the Cowboys did not turn the ball over.
On defense, the Cowboys sacked Lamar quarterback Caleb Berry six times and held him to 13 of 20 passing for 68 yards. McNeese also totaled 12 tackles for a loss. Senior linebacker Joe Narcisse had two sacks and two tackles for a los while Loveless, Everett
Ellefsen, Kevin Dorn and Aaron Sam each had a sack.