McNeese quarterback Cody Orgeron (8) gets ready to receive the snap from center Calvin Barkat (73) during Saturday’s win over Tarleton State. (Photo by McNeese Athletics)
STEPHENVILLE, Texas -- Cody Orgeron saw only one thing -- the pylon.
The McNeese senior quarterback took the second-down snap from Calvin Barkat and darted off towards the left side of the field inside Memorial Stadium.
Orgeron first avoided the diving tackle of one Tarleton State defender, and then outran not one but two more defenders, as the Cowboy star ran into the end zone for the game-winning 19-yard touchdown.
Orgeron helped McNeese defeat Tarleton State, 40-37, in double overtime but the Cowboys QB didn't see any of those purple-clad defenders, he could only see one thing -- the orange pylon of the end zone.
"As soon as I turned that corner, the only thing I saw was that pylon," Orgeron said. "I had to get in there. After that I was exhausted. I gave it all for my team to get into the end zone. It was a good feeling."
“It was only fitting that it would end in the fashion that it did,” said first-year McNeese coach Frank Wilson. “So resilient. So tough. A never say die spirit. A winner’s mentality. A team that refused to lose."
For long stretches of Saturday's game, which was the first college football game in a spring season since the 1890's, the Cowboys were losing.
McNeese (1-0) built up an early lead with a 21-yard field goal by Jacob Abel and then took advantage of a special teams miscue by Tarleton State. Kaylon Horton muffed a 53-yard punt by Bailey Raborn, which set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Orgeron to Josh Matthews.
Tarleton State seized control of the game by scoring 24 unanswered points. After a 27-yard touchdown run by Braelon Bridges, the Texans held a comfortable 24-10 with little more than two minutes left in the third.
"I told them to reflect on what they had been through and to dig deep," Wilson said. "Before the game, we said to them 'that you will get knocked down and it will require everything you have. You will have to soul search because it won't be easy. You will have to fight for this victory.'"
McNeese began to mount its comeback in the fourth quarter when Orgeron scored on a five-yard touchdown run which cut the deficit down to 24-17.
Tarleton State responded with a 13-play, 83-yard touchdown drive capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Bridges.
With less than three minutes in regulation, McNeese trailed 31-17. Orgeron wasn't rattled.
"Resilience man," Orgeron said. "I told those guys when we were in the huddle that it was going to be one hell of a story. I knew we had it in us. We pulled it out."
McNeese quickly went 65 yards on only five plays and capped the drive with a 26-yard pass from Orgeron to Mason Pierce.
The Cowboys then went for the onside kick.
Raborn's soft kick was batted by a Tarleton State player and recovered by McNeese's Darius Daniels at the 44-yard line.
Orgeron led the Cowboys down the field in seven plays as he threw a ball to the corner of the end zone to Trevor Begue who hauled in the 12-yard touchdown pass one-handed with only 35 seconds on the clock. The extra point was good and the Cowboys had forced overtime.
"I couldn't have done it without them," said Orgeron who passed for 170 yards, rushed for 108 yards and scored five touchdowns. "They just made me look good out there. Trevor Begue with that catch there in the end zone. Josh Matthews had a good night. Markel Cotten had a good catch there towards the end. Everyone just played their role and we executed as an offense."
The two teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime period.
McNeese's defense held Tarleton State to another field goal -- this one a 45-yard -- and gave its offense a chance to win the game.
Orgeron rushed for six yards on first down before moments later running for the game-winning touchdown.
"There was nothing that was going to keep me out of that endzone,” Orgeron said.