The last time Lamar University had a collegiate football program was Nov. 18, 1989. The Cardinals’ next game was nearly 21 years later– last Saturday night.

On both occasions the Cards played our alma mater, the McNeese State University Cowboys. Twenty-one years ago the game was played at Cardinal Stadium in Beaumont and Lamar capitalized on the home-field advantage by upsetting the Cowboys 22-17. Saturday night Lamar barely fell short of a humongous reversal by barely losing 30-27.

On both occasions, this Korner was in attendance of these two college rivals, both located less than 40 miles from Orange. Golfing partner Craig Couvillion really wanted to see this game, so we called Sports Information Director Louis Bonnette and he said he would leave the tickets at Will-Call like he always does.

However, Louis forgot to tell us that because of current construction being done around the stadium, Will Call was not located where it usually is. Some campus policeman said it was located in the old dormitory where the oak tree that was struck by lightning in 1995 used to stand.

That was like giving us directions in Greek, but we decided that we really did have tickets and figured out about where they were located in Cowboy Stadium and were already in the stadium thanks to my press credentials.

During the playing of the National Anthem by the McNeese Cowboy Band—at exactly 6:47 p.m. as scheduled—a jet flew over the stadium at about 1,000 feet. Then six military sky divers flew into the stadium and landed one at a time on the symbol of a Cowboy decorating the exact middle of the gridiron to the delight of the overflow crowd estimated at more than 19,000.

We sat amongst an equal contingency of McNeese and Lamar fans, so every time something happened, it was great for one of the factions surrounding us. The Cowboy fans had cowbells that practically drove us loony, but we endured.

Both the McNeese and the Lamar fans never expected the game to be as close and exciting as it was. The Cardinals’ offense and defense looked very seasoned while the Cowboys’ offense ran into several roadblocks caused by the gritty defensive unit.

Former West Orange-Stark Mustang Andre Bevil ran the Big Red attack and his passes were crisp spirals that were on target most of the time. Bevil was the quarterback for Head Coach Ray Woodard when both of them were at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana. Bevil was the first player to commit to Woodard’s new program at Lamar after the 2007 season.

Bevil’s first game as a Cardinal was a record-breaking performance as he threw for 426 yards, completing 24-of-41 passes and three touchdowns and breaking the Lamar school record of 412 yards by quarterback Shad Smith, which has stood since 1987.

Lamar’s running attack was non-existent, thanks to the McNeese defense, led by former West Orange-Stark cornerback Seth Thomas, who happens to be the younger brother of Earl Thomas, who will be starting the season at free safety for the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon.

Most of the fans were on the edge of their seats throughout most of the contest. McNeese got on the scoreboard first with a 37-yard field goal by Josh Lewis halfway through the first period. Bevil connected on a 26-yard scoring toss to Marcus Jackson, putting the Cards ahead 7-3 with 3:03 left in the initial stanza, to the delight of the throng from Beaumont.

Lamar kicker Justin Stout added a field goal early in the second quarter, upping the Big Red’s lead to 10-3. But the startled Cowboys quickly tied it at 10-all on a two-yard run by quarterback Jacob Bower, halfway through the second canto. Lewis added two more field goals—thanks to Lamar’s defense stopping the Pokes—giving McNeese a 16-10 lead at the intermission.

Lamar’s defense stopped the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half and Bevil connected with Josh Powdrill on a 73-yard pass play, setting up a 21-yard field goal by Stout, reducing the Cowboys’ lead to 16-13.

But McNeese, ranked 12th in the nation in Division I FCS, sensing that the Big Red won’t go away, expanded the lead to 23-13 when Bower hit receiver Brandon Robinson with a 48-yard scoring aerial with 2:10 left in the third period.

The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the fourth period as the Pokes led 30-20 with less than five minutes left in the game. Bevil hit J.J. Hayes on a two-yard touchdown toss, reducing the deficit to 30-27 with 3:23 left. Lamar’s attempted onside kick was recovered by the Cowboys, who ran out the clock.

“We had a chance to beat them on their own field,” Woodard said after the game, “and I’m real disappointed that we didn’t pull it off. But maybe we’re not as young as I thought we were. We kind of grew up tonight and I’m proud of that, but I’m never going to be happy with a three-point loss.”

This Korner was surprised at how well the Cardinals played and how salty their defense was against a good Cowboy team. However, the Cards must come up with a running attack to compliment the outstanding passing game and sharpen up on defending against the running game. They gained only 20 yards on 16 carries and surrendered 207 yards on the ground to the Cowboys.

And Andre Bevil needs to protect his lean body as much as possible, and if he must run with the football, either look for the sidelines or hit the deck before some over-eager 250-pound linebacker takes a cheap shot at him.

McNeese had better take a long, hard look at their pass defense, because Bevil exposed several weaknesses all night long.

The Cardinals will play their first home game at 6 p.m. Saturday when they host Webber International at the brand-new Provost-Umphrey Stadium in Beaumont. The Cowboys hit the road for Columbia, Mo. Saturday when they play the University of Missouri in their big-money game that we refer to as the “sacrificial lamb” game.

KWICKIES…The West Orange-Stark Mustangs were able to play Class 4A power Friendswood on even terms Friday night until it came to the kicking game where they came in second in both that category and on the final scoreboard, 35-34. The Mustangs tried for a two-point conversion after their final touchdown and failed while Friendswood scored their final touchdown and merely kicked the extra point for the victory.

The Houston Texans agreed to terms Monday with Mark Leinart as a backup quarterback to Matt Schaub and Dan Orlovsky. The left-handed Leinart (6-5, 232 pounds) was placed on waivers Friday by the Arizona Cardinals. It was thought Leinart would elect to play for Seattle, coached by Pete Carroll, who coached him at USC where he won the Heisman Trophy. But says there’s disagreement in the Seahawks’ front office over Leinart.

Just as the Houston Astros were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel about playing .500 baseball, manager Brad Mills started his minor league rendition of the Astros Monday at Chicago and watched an early 4-0 lead evaporate into a 5-4 loss. However, after losing their first eight games of the season, Houston went 64-64 in the next 128 games.

JUST BETWEEN US…The winner of the championship flight in the 51st annual Labor Day Golf Tournament held last weekend at Sunset Grove Country Club was Hunter Cooper, with Vince Jabbia second and Zane Caillier third. Greg Sonnier won the Pro Flight by five strokes over Patrick Prince with Corbin King, Tye Grissom and Rex Caldwell tying for third place. Other winners included Kelly Winnon in the first flight, Ernie Dyer in the second flight, Mark Magnuson in the third flight, Darrell Latiolais in the fourth flight, George Nevarez in the fifth flight and Mark Mortimer in the sixth flight. Cimron Campbell and Jerry Evans finished in a tie for the Senior Flight, with Campbell winning on a scorecard playoff.