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Little at stake in Battle of Border

Lamar-McNeese State Matchup

Offense

• Lamar: 333.2 total yards per game (141.6 rushing, 191.6 passing); leaders Adam Morse (freshman QB, 309 yards and 2 TDs on 26-of-51 passing with 1 interception), Austin Krautz (freshman RB, 277 yards and 1 TD on 89 carries) and Zae Giles (sophomore WR, 420 yards and 4 TDs on 39 receptions)

• McNeese: 440.2 total yards per game (135 rushing, 305.2 passing); leaders Ryan Ross (junior RB, 579 yards and 4 TDs on 130 carries), James Tabary (sophomore QB, 2,801 yards and 22 TDs on 231-of-386 passing with 7 interceptions) and Darious Crawley (junior WR, 619 yards and 6 TDs on 39 receptions)

Defense

• Lamar: 413 total yards per game (237.2 rushing, 178.8 passing); leaders Brendan Langley (senior CB, 6 interceptions, 4 pass break-ups), Xavier Bethany (senior CB, 85 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 break-ups) and Cameron Hampton (sophomore LB, 80 tackles, 1 sack)

• McNeese: 386.5 total yards per game (119.7 rushing, 266.8 passing); leaders Jammerio Gross (junior DE, 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 break-ups), Chris Livings (sophomore DE, 7 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries), Jermaine Antoine (junior DB, 2 interceptions for 103 returned yards, 9 break-ups)

Sound bytes

• Lamar coach Ray Woodard: “This is a little different McNeese. They’re trying to reinvent themselves. They won the conference last year as a rushing team. They’re playing great defense. They’re kind of a throwing team and they’re giving up big plays on defense. They’re still a good football team, but they’re a different team than what we’ve had to prepare for the past few years.”

• McNeese coach Lance Guidry, on Lamar’s pass defense: “They have some good guys on the back end against the pass. Hopefully we can establish the run like we did at Sam Houston State, then that should open up the passing game.”

Lamar football coach Ray Woodard has been asked before if he’s on the hot seat.

He’s never acknowledged such as the case, and he didn’t seem worried about it earlier this week. It’s not his belief a win today at McNeese State will calm fears about his job security.

“That’s not what this game is about,” said Woodard, who has a 34-45 record in seven seasons. “I really don’t think — I may be wrong because I can’t speak for other people — but I don’t think this game will make a difference, one way or another. That’s just how I feel, but we’ll see.”

The litmus test of Lamar’s support may have been last week’s announced attendance of 5,566 in the home finale against Incarnate Word — which ended in a fourth straight loss. It’s the lowest home attendance for the Cardinals on record since 2011.

They failed to reach 10,000 in a single home game after drawing 13,136 to the Oct. 1, 2015, Abilene Christian game, the one where Kade Harrington set a Southland record of 347 rushing yards.

But Harrington, like several key cogs, have been sidelined by injury this season, maybe a major factor in the struggles of this season’s Cardinals (3-7, 3-5 Southland).

As they wind down their sixth losing record in seven years, they’re left without the opportunity to reach a climax in the season. For consolation, they can deny McNeese State (5-5, 4-4), the defending Southland Conference champion which has underwhelmed in Lance Guidry’s first season as head coach, a winning record of their own and win in Lake Charles for the second straight time. That would give the Cardinals much-needed bragging rights in the offseason.

HOW THINGS CHANGE

Few if any would have thought less than a month ago the season would end with a freshman quarterback and two freshman running backs starting at Lamar. But Adam Morse, Austin Krautz and Kendrick King, all Jefferson County products, have embraced their roles.

“He’s been everything I thought he would be,” said senior cornerback Brendan Langley, the Southland’s leader in interceptions with six. “People don’t see the hard work that goes into it, but every day in practice, I personally see the guy with a very strong arm who can get [the ball] into those tight windows. He did it a couple of times in practice.”

The story of the season would probably result in a different cliffhanger to today’s game with a little more fortune in health.

Harrington, Lamar’s all-time leading rusher, saw his college career end with a torn ligament in his left foot in a comeback win against Northwestern State. The next week, senior quarterback Carson Earp was knocked out with a shoulder injury at Central Arkansas. The week after that, junior Andrew Allen injured his collarbone and freshman Case Robinson broke a bone in his throwing hand, prompting Morse to lift his redshirt.

“I think it’s good to get that experience early on in your career,” Morse said. “I’m sure further on I’m going to face the same adversity.”

The offensive line has been beaten up all season. Senior Bret Treadway, a preseason All-American, came back from a bout with nucleosis but has missed some time due to injury, as has John Craven and Matthew Oubre.

Redshirt freshman running back Derrion Randle and sophomore cornerback Rodney Randle are also out.

JUST THEIR LUCK

On the field, Lamar has lost four straight, but three were determined by 10 points or less.

McNeese State has failed to live up to expectations after going 10-0 in the 2015 regular season, but Arkansas State transfer James Tabary has steadily climbed up the school’s single-season passing charts. With 2,801 yards, he needs 267 to beat Blake Prejean’s record from 1997.

Defensively, the Cowboys have scored three touchdowns this year, leading the Southland and ranking sixth in all the FCS in that category. Defensive lineman Jammerio Gross has collected 7.5 sacks this season.

Morse and Krautz will line up across another Mid-County Madness veteran in former Nederland quarterback Sage Seay, who is a true sophomore linebacker for the Cowboys. Seay has had a quiet season with seven tackles in five games after totaling 13 stops in nine games last season.

The Battle of the Border, Morse said, is similar to Mid-County Madness.

“It’s right across the border,” Morse said. “The state line is right there, 30 minutes away. It’s a big game for Lamar and McNeese. They always play the last game of the year, the biggest game for us in the conference, I would say. It’s a big rivalry, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

SOUTHLAND FOOTBALL: LAMAR (3-7) AT McNEESE STATE (5-5)

• When: 6 tonight

• Where: Cowboy Stadium, Lake Charles

• Webcast/Radio: McNeeseSports.com/KLVI-AM 560

• Southland records: Lamar 3-5, McNeese State 4-4

• Series record: McNeese State leads 25-13-1; last meeting McNeese won 20-14 in Beaumont in 2015

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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