Car­di­nals earn his­toric vic­tory

Fresh­man QB ac­counts for four scores in rout of South­land power

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Sports - By Greg Luca STAFF WRITER

When In­car­nate Word and McNeese met last year, UIW’s quar­ter­backs were a com­bined 6 of 26 for 65 yards and five in­ter­cep­tions, four of which were re­turned for touch­downs, in a 48point loss.

The re­sult hardly seemed out of place, as the Car­di­nals fin- ished 1-10 in 2017 be­fore ush­er­ing in a new staff un­der head coach Eric Mor­ris. And with Mor­ris’ air raid of­fense and a new quar­ter­back in fresh­man Jon Copeland, UIW looks like a re­vi­tal­ized pro­gram.

McNeese came to Gayle and Tom Ben­son Sta­dium on Satur­day with an un­beaten record in the South­land Con­fer­ence and a No. 6 rank­ing in both the AFCA coaches and STATS FCS polls, but UIW handed the Cowboys a 45-17 drub­bing. The win is the Car­di­nals’ first against a ranked

op­po­nent in pro­gram his­tory.

“It’ll take me a while to re­flect on that when my mind is still rac­ing right now, but I’m proud of the way our guys came out and com­peted,” Mor­ris said. “Any time you can knock off the No. 6 pro­gram in the na­tion in that fash­ion, on a win like that, is some­thing I’ll re­mem­ber for a long time.”

UIW is 4-3 over­all and 4-1 in the South­land Con­fer­ence, tied with McNeese (5-2, 4-1) and Cen­tral Arkansas atop the league stand­ings with three games to play. UIW’s only loss in con­fer­ence play this year is to La­mar — the only team UIW beat dur­ing a 1-7 South­land sea­son in 2017.

In last week’s 27-21 loss to La­mar, UIW’s at­tempt at a gamewin­ning field goal was blocked and re­turned for the de­ci­sive touch­down as time ex­pired, end­ing UIW’s un­beaten start to the South­land sea­son.

“I hate to say it, but I feel like we needed it,” Bap­tiste said. “Com­ing up for the first time 3-0, that didn’t hap­pen here. So I feel like that tough loss, it was a tough loss, but we needed it to come back this week, work hard and come for this win against a great team.”

UIW top­pled McNeese for the first time in pro­gram his­tory after drop­ping the pre­vi­ous four meet­ings. McNeese is a tra­di­tional power in the South­land, as the Cowboys haven’t posted a los­ing con­fer­ence record since 2004 — five years be­fore the in­cep­tion of UIW’s pro­gram. The Car­di­nals were 30-67 all-time en­ter­ing the 2018 sea­son, hav­ing never won more than six games in a year.

“We’re go­ing to pro­tect this house, al­ways. The in­ten­sity, just the flow of our of­fense, the flow of our whole team, de­fense and of­fense, we were fly­ing,” re­ceiver Phillip Bap­tiste said. “It was a whole dif­fer­ence from last year. We’re balling now. We just have to keep balling.”

On Satur­day, Copeland com­pleted 24 of 41 passes for 236 yards, three touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion. He also ran for a score.

For the year, Copeland is av­er­ag­ing 297.1 yards per game on 55.4 per­cent com­ple­tions with 14 touch­downs and 11 in­ter­cep­tions.

“It’s been a good time,” Copeland said. “I just have to fo­cus on my job. Not do­ing too much, not do­ing too lit­tle. But just make the reads I’m sup­posed to make, make the checks I’m sup­posed to make, put the ball in the play­mak­ers’ hands, and let them go to work.”

UIW en­tered with the con­fer­ence’s best of­fense (491 yards per game), while McNeese boasted the South­land’s top de­fense (325 yards per game). But UIW built a 28-3 ad­van­tage by half­time, out­gain­ing McNeese 274-100 dur­ing the first 30 min­utes.

For the game, UIW out­gained McNeese 390-222.

The Car­di­nals opened the scor­ing when Copeland found Phillip Bap­tiste in the left cor­ner of the end zone for a 20-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 12:22 to play in the open­ing quar­ter.

After McNeese con­nected on a field goal, UIW an­swered with an­other score. The Car­di­nals con­verted a fourth-and-1 in their own half to keep the drive alive be­fore Copeland hit La­mont Jor­dan for an 8-yard touch­down on thir­dand-6 with 2:33 to play in the first quar­ter. En­ter­ing Satur­day, McNeese had al­lowed just 14 firstquar­ter points on the year.

UIW mounted an­other long drive in the sec­ond quar­ter, cov­er­ing 76 yards in 11 plays be­fore Ra- ’Quanne Dick­ens ran in a 7-yard touch­down for a 21-3 lead with 6:53 re­main­ing. The score was Dick­ens’ 10th of the year, pulling him within one of UIW’s sin­gle­sea­son record.

Later, McNeese muffed a punt, leav­ing UIW with just 28 yards to drive for Copeland’s 4-yard touch­down run and a 28-3 lead with 2:01 left in the half.

McNeese scored shortly after half­time to pull within 28-10, but UIW added a 35-yard field goal by Cody Sei­del with 6:50 to play in the third quar­ter and a 15-yard touch­down pass from Copeland to Bap­tiste for a 38-10 lead with 1:50 re­main­ing. The Car­di­nals’ Louis Otis capped the scor­ing with a 37-yard in­ter­cep­tion re­turn for a touch­down with 6:31 to play in the fourth.

UIW next trav­els to Thi­bo­daux, La., to face Ni­cholls at 3 p.m. Satur­day.

“I just told them in the locker room how proud I am of them for this win, and to en­joy it for 24 hours, but we have to hit the re­set but­ton,” Mor­ris said. “We’re not go­ing to be a se­cret any­more. Peo­ple are go­ing to know what we’re ca­pa­ble of, and it’s not just go­ing to be a pushover game where they can mark one down in the win col­umn.”

Ron­ald Cortes / Con­trib­u­tor

UIW’s Jon Copeland is lifted up by team­mate Jeremy Jones after a 4-yard touch­down run in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Ron­ald Cortes / Con­trib­u­tor

UIW’s Mal­ick Phillips picks off a pass in­tended for McNeese State’s Cy­ron Sut­ton. Phillips and the Car­di­nals earned their first win over the Cowboys, who beat them by 48 points a year ago.

In­car­nate Word’s Ian Peter­son breaks up a pass in­tended for Sut­ton. The Car­di­nals al­lowed just 222 to­tal yards.

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