Lamar victorious at Provost Umphrey Stadium debut
As the final two minutes of Lamar University’s first home football game in 21 years ticked off the Provost Umphrey Stadium Saturday night, the chant along the Cardinals’ bench began.
“We’re 1-1, baby; we’re 1-1, baby,” the players chortled in unison.
It was their way of celebrating the first victory of the new era of Lamar football along with the red-clad crowd of 16,600. Still, one could tell there was slight tinge of disappointment in their voices.
The Cardinals had not displayed the same kind of offensive explosiveness as they did a week earlier in their 30-27 season-opening loss to then 11th-ranked McNeese State in Lake Charles, Ls. Still, they found ways to overcome their mistakes and prevent what would’ve been a huge disappointment to them and their faithful.
“Number 1, I want to say Webber International played a very good game,” Lamar coach Ray Woodard told members of the media a few minutes after the game ended. I don’t want to take away from their (the Warriors) effort.
“They put up a tremendous fight in these conditions. They had chances to fold up, but they refused to do it. They kept coming back at us.
“Number 2, I’ll never be unhappy with a win. We still looked like a young football team making mistakes, and that’s what we are. We want to play closer to error-free ball than we did tonight.”
The game was only 1:45 old when the Cardinals struck for their first touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Andre Bevil to J.J. Hayes, but they didn’t score again until late in the third quarter. In the meantime, the 2-1 Warriors pulled even at 7-7 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Taylor Atwood late in the first quarter, and they benefitted from one interception thrown by Bevil and two lost Lamar fumbles in the red zone, both also by Bevil.
The junior quarterback from West Orange-Stark completed 16 of 34 passes for 228 yards, a far cry from his school record-setting 429-yard performance against McNeese State. His handiwork this night included a 57-yard bomb to backup wide receiver Kendrick Prejean that snapped the 7-7 tie with 2:50 left in the third quarter.
“I think we came out totally underestimating these guys,” said Bevil of the Warriors. “We’re happy with the win, but it was ugly. We need to put it behind us now and move on to next week’s game with the mindset that we’re going to play a lot better.”
Bevil also executed a neat 8-yard shovel pass to tight end Billy Chavis to give the Cardinals a 21-7 cushion, but the Warriors climbed back into contention with a nine-play, 50-yard touchdown drive that quarterback Torrence Moise completed with an impressive 21-yard run through the heart of the Cardinal defense.
On the positive side for the Cardinals, their running game produced 136 yards, some 119 more than they managed in the McNeese State game. Former Lumberton standout Cody Hussey led the way, churning out 77 yards on 13 carries.
Hayes and Josh Powdrill led the Cardinals’ receiving corps with four catches each, Hayes for 50 yards and Powdrill for 34. Marcus Jackson had three catches for 72 yards, while Prejean’s TD reception was his only one on the night.
“I just felt like I was ready for the ball at any time,” said Prejean. “I told Andre to keep pushing it out there, and we receivers would find ways to get to the ball.”
Taylor Atwood and Deonte Fielder led Webber’s running game with 44 and 43 yards, respectively, and the 6-foot-1, 174-pound Moise had 34 yards. Moise completed nine of 20 passes for 93 yards, and he threw two interceptions, both snared by free safety Tim Hayter.
A third-down pass of 27 yards from Bevil to Powdrill moved the Cardinals into Webber territory for the first time only three plays after the opening kickoff, and Bevil promptly hit Hayes with the 25-yard icebreaker in the left corner of the end zone on the next play. It was the first touchdown scored in the stadium since Kenny Franklin ran in from three yards out in the final minute of Lamar’s 22-17 victory over McNeese State to end the 1989 season.
After forcing a Lamar punt midway in the first quarter, the Warriors drove 70 yards on 10 plays to deadlock the score at 7-7. Moise completed a wobbly pass of 40 yards to Nick Guglielmello to highlight the drive, and Atwood completed it with a 7-yard run on a trap play with 1:28 left in the opening quarter.
Each team had four possessions in the mistake-filled, scoreless second quarter that saw the Cardinals miss a scoring opportunity in the final minute when Bevil coughed up the ball at the 10-yard line on scramble. Warrior linebacker Steven Willis made the hit and also recovered the bobble.
The Cardinals finished the half with 176 total yards with 95 coming from the ground game. The Warriors forced Bevil out of the pocket for four scrambles, allowing him to net 33 yards on six carries. Hussey led the team with 46 first-half yards on seven carries.
Bevil completed eight of 10 passes in the first quarter, but he went 2-for-12 for a net of zero yards in the second. Moise went 7-for-13 for 76 yards in the opening half, and the Warriors managed only 27 rushing yards on 17 carries.
With Bevil completing a 53-yard pass to Jackson and Hussey providing some strong running, the Cardinals drove inside Webber’s 10-yard line on their second possession of the third quarter. On a first-and-goal play from the 4, however, Bevil rolled to his right and fumbled the ball into the end zone after being hit hard by free safety Ricki Carlson.
The Warriors were awarded a touchback, but were unable to mount a drive. Powdrill returned the Warriors’ ensuing punt for what appeared to be an 81-yard touchdown, but an illegal block by Steven Murray-Sesay reduced the return to 44 yards.
The overflow crowd came to life three plays later when Bevil went deep to Prejean for the 57-yard bomb that snapped the 7-7 tie with 2:50 remaining the third quarter.
Free safety Tim Hayter’s interception and 8-yard return on the third play of the fourth quarter left the Cardinals only 23 yards to drive for the touchdown that enabled them to gain more separation. It came on Bevil’s clutch 8-yard shovel pass to Chavis with 12:46 remaining.
The Warriors retaliated with a nine-play, 50 yard scoring drive that cut their deficit to 21-14. Moise got the touchdown on a 21-yard quarterback draw with 7:31 left.
The Cardinals will return to the road this Saturday for another taste of Southland Conference opposition when they play Southeastern Louisiana at 6 p.m. in 7,408-seat Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, La. In their first taste of SLC opposition since the 1989 season, the Cardinals battled then 11th-ranked McNeese State to the wire in a 30-27 loss on Sept. 4.