SFA football returns to Nacogdoches after over a month for the annual homecoming game. This year’s matchup will be against the McNeese State Cowboys with kickoff at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Homer Bryce Stadium.
The Lumberjacks come off a 31-24 double overtime loss to Abilene Christian University. The loss drops the SFA’s record to 1-6, 1-3 SLC.
Down by 10 in the fourth quarter, the Jacks rallied back and forced overtime after a successful 27-yard field goal by Storm Ruiz evened up the score 24-24 with 27 seconds left in the game. After unsuccessful field goal attempts by both teams in the first overtime, the Wildcats scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 22-yard pass from junior quarterback Luke Anthony to sophomore wide receiver Kobe Clark. SFA possessed the ball once more but was stopped by ACU on four downs.
Quarterback Trae Self threw for 318 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Freshman wide receiver Xavier Gipson and senior running back Da’Leon Ward each had over 100 receiving yards. Gipson hauled in two touchdowns, and Ward brought in one. Defensively, senior defensive end Gary Sampson had two sacks, and junior defensive backs Trenton Gordon and Eli Jones both recorded double-digit tackles with 12 and 11 respectively.
McNeese enters the matchup after a 42-27 victory over Houston Baptist University. The Cowboys’ offense accounted for a season-high 567 total yards and the defense held HBU to a season-low 347 total yards, 184 yards under its season average. The Huskies were held to 18 points under their average scoring mark of 45 points per game which ranked them No. 1 in the nation.
The Cowboys are led by first- year head coach and Texas native Sterlin Gilbert. He was previously the offensive coordinator for two seasons under current South Florida and former Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong.
Gilbert utilizes the “veer and shoot,” a spread offense predicated onsetting up the run game by passing the ball. Throughout his coaching career, he has coached many current NFL players, including Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and Connor Williams, an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys.
Gilbert also has a connection with Lumberjacks head coach Colby Carthel as the two were teammates for Angelo State University in 1999. The former was a quarterback while the latter was a middle linebacker.
McNeese is led on offense by redshirt junior quarterback Cody Orgeron. A twin son of current LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron, he is 142-247 this season with 1853 passing yards with 17 touchdowns to seven interceptions and holds a 57.49 completion percentage. The signal caller is also the team’s second leading rusher with 102 carries with 329 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Last week, Orgeron accounted for 383 yards of total offense with 303 passing yards and 80 rushing yards.
He also became the first McNeese player to record 400 yards of total offense when he finished with 403 yards (344 passing, 59 rushing) in the Cowboy’s 41-30 loss to Central Arkansas.
McNeese’s ground game features four players who have over 60 carries this season. Leading the charge is junior running back Elijah Mack with 117 carries for 509 yards and four touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Cyron Sutton leads the Cowboys receiving corps with 47 receptions for 740 yards and seven touchdowns. The New Orleans, Louisiana, native set a McNeese record with his sixth straight game, catching a touchdown pass in the win over Houston Baptist. It was also his 17thstraight game where he caught a pass. Junior wide receiver Trevor Beague is the Cowboys’ second leading receiver with 39 receptions for 554 yards with six touchdown catches.
The Cowboys utilize a base 4-3 defense under first-year defensive coordinator Jim Gush. Leading the defense is Jovon Burriss, a senior defensive back, who leads the team with 71 tackles. The Maryland native has also forced two fumbles, recovered three fumbles, broke up two passes and got a sack. In the win over HBU, Burriss led the defense by recording 10 tackles. Kory McCoy, a junior defensive back, leads the Cowboys secondary with three interceptions and has broken up eight passes.
Kody Fulp, a sophomore linebacker and JUCO transfer from Navarro College, is second on Cowboys’ defense with 46 tackles. He also has 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Aiding Fulp at linebacker is sophomore Kordell Williams who has 42 tackles and a team-leading seven tackles for loss.
Chris Livings, senior defensive end and a preseason first team All-Southland selection,has37tackles with four tackles for loss and has three quarterback hurries. Fellow defensive lineman Cody Roscoe leads the Cowboys in both sacks and pass breakups with six and nine, respectively.