LAKE CHARLES, La. — Freshman kicker Will Johnson kicked a pair of field goals and Shaun Rutherford ran for a touchdown and threw for another as the Texas State football team outlasted McNeese State 21-14 in a hard-fought game at Cowboy Stadium on Saturday night.
“I thought the game was a great chess match between both coaching staffs,” said Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione. “McNeese State is a hard team to beat and when you come (to Lake Charles), you have to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. I thought our players did that tonight.
Rutherford gave Texas State an early lead when he was chased out of the pocket and ran for a 22-yard touchdown. Johnson added the extra point to give Texas State a 7-0 lead with 3:53 left to play in the first quarter.
McNeese came right back to tie the score as Marcus Wiltz scored a touchdown on a nine-yard run and Josh Lewis kicked the extra point.
The Bobcats regained the lead in the second quarter when Johnson kicked a 39-yard field goal to cap off a 54-yard drive and to give Texas State a 10-7 lead at halftime.
The Bobcats opened the second half with great field position when Andy Erickson returned the kickoff 44 yards to Texas State’s 48-yard line. That set up a 46-yard field goal by Johnson. It was his second-longest field goal of the season and fourth field goal this season from 40 or more yards. That kick extended Texas State’s lead to 13-7 with 12:22 left in the third quarter.
McNeese State came back to take the lead for the first time when Wiltz ran for another nine-yard touchdown and Lewis added the extra point to make the score 14-13.
Texas State regained the lead on their first drive in the fourth quarter as Rutherford completed four key passes to lead the Bobcats to another score. First he hit Darius Bolden for 13 yards to Texas State’s 42-yard line on a third and 11 play. Then, he threw a 29-yard pass to Bolden to give the Bobcats a first down on the Cowboys’ 20-yard line.
After he ran for 13 yards on the next two plays, Rutherford hit Isaiah Battle for an 11-yard touchdown pass capping a 14 play 79 yard drive that took 7:45 off the clock.
“You have to tip your hat to Shaun, Battle and Bolden because they made plays with the game on the line,” said Franchione. “In the fourth quarter, players have to step up and make plays. They did that tonight.”
After the touchdown pass to Battle, Texas State held a 19-14 lead with 9:44 remaining in the game. Franchione and his staff decided to go for a two-point conversion. Rutherford threw a perfect pass between two Cowboy defenders to tight end David Lewis for a 21-14 lead.
The Bobcat defense had to make two huge defensive stands in the final four minutes of the game. The Cowboys drove the ball down to Texas State’s 26-yard line when McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud threw a pair of incomplete passes Bobcat defensive end Michael Ebbitt sacked Stroud for a six-yard loss to set up a critical fourth-down play. Ebbitt and sophomore defensive end Jordan Norfleet pressured Stroud into another incomplete pass.
The Bobcats took possession of the ball and ran the clock down to 20 seconds left to play when Ben Follis mishandled a punt attempt to give the Cowboys one last chance. This time, Justin Iwuji blitzed and Stroud was called for intentional grounding on the final play of the game.
Rutherford finished the game leading the Bobcats in rushing with 65 yards on 19 carries, while Terrence Franks added 64 yards on 13 attempts. Rutherford also completed 8-of-11 passes for 110 yards and the TD to Battle.
Bolden led the Bobcats receivers with three catches for 48 yards, while Erickson had two catches for 27 yards and Lewis caught an 18-yard pass to go along with his two-point conversion. Battles only catch was the 11-yard touchdown.
Andre Anderson led McNeese State with 76 yards rushing on nine carries, while Wiltz added 64 yards and the two TD’s on nine carries. Stroud completed 13-27 passes for 145 yards, but had an interception.
The Bobcats finished the game with no turnovers and just one penalty for five yards.
With the victory, Texas State improves to 4-2 overall this season while McNeese State falls to 3-2. The Bobcats return home to play host to Lamar in a game next Saturday, Oct. 15, in a game that kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets to the Texas State vs. Lamar game can be purchased by calling 512-245- 2272 or on-line at www.txstatebobcats.com.