NATCHITOCHES – McNeese quarterback James Tabaryhad the golden touch on Saturday night with a career-high 384 yards passing and three touchdowns while the offense rolled up a season-best 601 total offensive yards as the Cowboys pulled away in the second half to down Northwestern State 48-27 in Southland Conference action.
But it was head coach Lance Guidry who was the hero of the game and was awarded the game ball by the team afterwards for the unimaginable circumstances he experience this past week with the death of his brother and grandfather. Guidry joined the team on Friday night and led the squad onto the field on Saturday, the first time he's been on the gridiron since last Saturday. Guidry then tossed the ball to defensive line coach Lark Hebert who was acting in Guidry's place throughout the week to get the team prepared for the Demons.
"Coach Hebert took over as the head coach (in my absence) and they gave me the game ball at the end of the game. He deserved that one. The coaches prepared the team well offensively and defensively. I think the team was just happy for me to be here."
McNeese (4-4, 3-3 SLC) wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard when Ryan Ross scored on a 4-yard run to cap a 9-play, 75-yard drive to put McNeese up 7-0 after the Cowboys scored a TD for the first time this season on their opening drive.
NSU (1-6, 0-5) then scored 14 straight to tie it at 21-21 after a 28-yard second quarter run by Ronald Green then a 26-yard rush by Shakeir Ryan on the opening possession of the second half.
After that, Tabary went to work again as McNeese outscored NSU 27-10 the rest of the way.
"I thought we played well in all areas," said Guidry. "Defensively, we need to get better by all means but this was a very, very good win for us."
Jermaine Antoine sealed the deal with an interception late in the game and returned it 70 yards for a score to put the Cowboys up 48-27 and on their way to their 13th straight win over the Demons.
Freshman running back Justin Pratt rushed for a career-high 124 yards on 9 carries for a remarkable 13.8 yards per carry. He's the first Cowboy runner to run for 100 yards or more since Ryan Ross ran for 118 yards at Louisiana-Lafayette back in week 2 of the season.
After kicker Gunnar Raborn put McNeese up for good at 24-21 following a 27-yard field goal, Pratt burst through for a 47-yard sprint to the end zone on the Cowboys' next possession to give McNeese a 31-21 lead with 6:56 to play in the third quarter.
Tabary tossed his third touchdown pass of the game after connecting with Kylon Highshaw for 6 yards to make it 38-21 with 4:04 to play in the quarter.
Raborn hit a 25-yard field goal with 12:56 to play in the fourth to make it 41-24, squeezed in between two 30-yard kicks by NSU's Eric Piccione after the Cowboys' defense kept the Demons out of the end zone in back-to-back possessions.
That led to Antoine's 70-yard pick six to close things out.
The Cowboys racked up 601 offensive yards marking the first time the Cowboys surpassed 600 total yards since 2004. McNeese finished with 217 yards rushing and 384 passing. It's the second time this season the Cowboys have run for more than 200 yards this season while the 384 yards passing by Tabary is ranked as the second-most in a game for a quarterback in school history.
A total of nine Cowboys caught passes on the night led by Kent Shelby with 7 grabs for 85 yards and a score. Highshaw finished with 6 catches for 47 yards and a td while Darious Crawley added 5 passes for 77 yards.
Following Pratt in the running department was Ross who ran for 72 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.
NSU finished with 414 total yards – 173 rushing and a season-high 241 passing.
Demons' quarterback Brooks Haack completed 19 of 35 passes for all 241 yards and a touchdown along with an interception.
The Cowboys will be back in action on Saturday when they host Abilene Christian for Homecoming.
• WR Kent Shelby extended his streak to 21 consecutive games with at least 1 catch.
• LB Khoury Kraus recorded his first collegiate sack.
• RB Dylan Long scored his 28th career touchdown tying him for 7th with Derrick Fourroux on the school's all-time career TDs scored list.
• Tabary's 29 completions is a career-high and is the third most in a game in school history.
• With his 386 yards passing, Tabary has now thrown for 2,171 this season, the 10th most in school history.
• Ross' 72 yards rushing on the night gives him 1,968 in his career and moving him into 15th on the school's all-time rushing list.