Cardinals earn historic victory
Freshman QB accounts for four scores in rout of Southland power
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.”
UIW’s Jon Copeland is lifted up by teammate Jeremy Jones after a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
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.