Lamar's long-awaited return to football finally here
Sept. 3, 2010
LAKE CHARLES - Lamar University will take to the field in football for the first time in 21 years Saturday night when the Cardinals will challenge traditionally-strong McNeese State in a 7 p.m. game at 17,410-seat Cowboy Field.
Ironically, Lamar's last football game - played in Beaumont's Cardinal Stadium on Nov. 18, 1989 - was also against McNeese State. The Cardinals rallied for 16 fourth-quarter points to win it 22-17.
In McNeese State, coach Ray Woodard's Cardinals will be facing a squad loaded with veterans from a 9-3 team that shared the 2009 Southland Conference championship with Stephen F. Austin State. The Cowboys' 15 returning starters from the team that bowed to New Hamshire 49-13 in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs include all 11 on the defensive side of the ball.
Lamar, meanwhile, will go to battle with a youthful team featuring a good mix of freshmen and junior college or senior college transfers. The Cardinals showcased a potentially-strong passing game in their two preseason intrasquad scrimmages.
"Our fall camp was very exciting and productive, but we're eager to get down to playing games against other folks for a change," said Woodard, who came to Lamar in May of 2008 after coaching Navarro College to a 10-1 record and No. 5 national ranking in 2007. "It's been a long time getting here - more than two years.
"We certainly won't get lost getting over there (to Lake Charles). All we have to do is go to I-10 and hang a right."
Junior quarterback Andre Bevil, who played for Woodard at Navarro and was a local high school standout at West Orange-Stark, will trigger the Cardinals' offense. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder completed 14 of 24 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns in Lamar's final preseason intrasquad scrimmage, and he went 8-for-17 for 139 yards and two TDs in the Cardinals' Spring Game.
Bevil's counterpart for the Cowboys will be Jacob Bower, a transfer graduate student from the University of Tulsa. The 6-4, 238-pounder is the only quarterback on the team with previous collegiate experience, having completed 26 of 51 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Both quarterbacks will operate behind hefty offensive lines. With 6-5, 310-pound junior Jacobson Joseph being their largest starter, the Cardinals' offensive line averages 282.3 pounds per man. McNeese's O-Line averages 281.5 pounds with left guard Jonathan Landry (6-4, 304) being the largest.
"With this being our first game and with all of the excitement surrounding us restarting football (after a 21-year absence), I'm sure we'll make some mistakes, but we'll play hard and try to hold the mistakes to a minimum," said Woodard. "I think we have good team speed, and we'll try to take advantage of that.
Saturday's game will mark the 29th renewal of the Cardinal-Cowboy series, the longest in Lamar's history. McNeese holds a 19-8-1 lead, and the Cowboys had won six in a row before the Cardinals came back to win the 1989 game. When the teams last played in Lake Charles, the Cowboys won an 18-17 nailbiter.
The Cardinals are 21-18 in their season openers, but they dropped their last one, 31-28 to Angelo State in 1989. Quarterback John Evans set a Lamar record in that game with 33 completions, exceeding the previous mark of 31 he shared with Larry Haynes. The Cardinals' last win in a season opener was 42-21 over West Texas State.
Since beginning play against four-year institutions in 1951, McNeese is 38-20-1 in its season openers. The Cowboys won last year's season opener, 27-24 over Henderson State.
The only other time Lamar and McNeese opened their seasons against each other was 1969 when the Cardinals prevailed 13-7 before a crowd of 12,600 in Lake Charles.