Lamar stages late-game comeback to stun Southeastern Louisiana 29-28
Andre Bevil threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Hayes with 1:52 remaining Saturday, Sept 18, and Mark Murrill recovered a last-minute fumble to highlight Lamar University’s comeback from a 20-point deficit in its 29-28 victory over Southeastern Louisiana.
In coming within 12 yards of his school-record 429 passing yards set in the Cardinals’ season opener against McNeese State, Bevil guided his teammates on an 11-play, 80-yard drive to the winning score. His 34 completions (on 55 attempts) gave him another school record, exceeding by one the 33 completions John Evans had in a 1989 game against Angelo State.
Murrill’s game-preserving fumble recovery came at the Lamar 48-yard line with 59.3 seconds remaining, and the Cardinals went to 2-1 in the early going by draining the clock on three running plays by Cody Hussey and Bevil’s final incompletion as the final second ticked off the Strawberry Stadium clock.
“I’m so proud of this football team,” said a jubilant Ray Woodard, Lamar’s head coach, moments after the game ended. “At halftime, the players had their lips poking out. They knew they had stunk it up (with turnovers and costly penalties) for 30 minutes.
“In the second half, this team came together and made some huge strides. We made it difficult on ourselves at times, but I’m so glad we have a bunch of guys who want to play hard and to win.
“After Southeastern scored to go up by 20 points on the first possession of the second half, we could’ve tucked it in and gotten beat by 40. We came back and made it a whale of a game on both sides of the ball.”
In addition to Hayes’ leaping catch in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown, Bevil also threw scoring strikes of 21 yards to Hayes in the first quarter and 13 yards to Hayes in the third as well as a 2-yarder to Marcus Jackson early in the fourth.
“When we were down by 20 (points), the only thing I could think about was pride and heart,” said Bevil, a junior from West Orange-Stark. “We dedicated ourselves to fighting right down to the end. We fought like dogs the entire second half.
“I got hit, and I was on the ground when J.J. made the winning catch. I didn’t see it, but when I heard our fans go up in roar, I knew J.J. had caught the ball. J.J. is a bigtime player.”
Hayes, a junior from Diboll by way of Navarro College finished with six catches for 87 yards and three TDs. Josh Powdrill also had 87 receiving yards on seven catches, and Jackson had six grabs for 78 yards and Kendrick Prejean two for 73 yards.
The Cardinals wound up with 434 total yards, 10 fewer than the 1-2 Lions accumulated. Quarterback Brian Young threw for a career-high 301 yards on 24-for-35 accuracy, while Sam Fairley rushed for a game-high 98 yards, and Kory Theodore accumulated a career-high 164 receiving yards on seven catches.
Zeke Jones had a pair of 1-yard touchdown dives and a 5-yard scoring run for the Lions, and Theodore scored their other touchdown on a 30-yard catch early in the second quarter.
A 23-yard Bevil pass to Powdrill on a third-and-22 play helped enable the Cardinals to drive inside SLU’s 10-yard line on the game’s first offensive series, but the scoring opportunity was lost when Stout was wide left on 24-yard field goal try with 10:57 left in the first quarter.
Linebacker Asim Hicks promptly retrieved the ball for the Cardinals, however, by recovering a first-down fumble at the Lion 25-yard line. The Cards cashed this time as Bevil took them the distance in four snappy plays and ended the drive with a 21-yard pass to Hayes just inside the end zone on the left sideline.
The Jackson-to-Jackson connection of Marcus to Darby clicked for the two-point conversion to give the Cardinals their 8-0 lead with 9:41 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Lions retaliated with an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive on which Young set up Jones’ 5-yard run up the middle for the score with a clutch 5-yard pass to Simmie Yarborough.
It then became the Lions’ turn to play takeaway as weak safety Curtis Strong intercepted a Bevil pass near midfield with 4:47 left in the first quarter. The Lions were unable to convert, however as they turned over the ball over on downs near the three-minute mark.
Kollin Kahler’s 49-yard punt backed the Lions inside their 10-yard line late in the first quarter, but the Cardinals failed to capitalize on the field position advantage as Billy Chavis jumped offside on a punt attempt, enabling SLU to maintain possession. The Cards wound up paying dearly for the mistake as Young completed his 30-yard TD pass to Theodore on the second play of the second quarter to put the Lions up 14-8.
Bevil completed a gutsy fourth-down pass of 6 yards to Powdrill on Lamar’s ensuing possession, but on the next play cornerback Clint Coleman wrestled the ball from Hayes in the end zone to rob the Cardinals of an almost certain touchdown.
After forcing an SLU punt, the Cardinals committed another costly mistake as Bevil and Hussey missed connections on a handoff near midfield, and linebacker Mark Newbill recovered for the Lions.
The Lions received further help on a personal foul penalty against Lamar’s defense, but cornerback Braden Thomas saved the day for the Cardinals by coming up with a tipped-pass interception near the goal line with 4:40 left in the half.
The Lions extended their lead to 21-8 with a seven-play, 39-yard drive that Jones ended with a 1-yard dive into the north end zone with 53.8 seconds remaining before halftime.
Fairley helped set up the score with first-down runs of 13 and 18 yards.
Southeastern held a 220-131 advantage in total yards at the intermission, but the biggest difference was in the turnover column – three for the Cardinals and one for the Lions.
Young hit Theodore in stride on a 49-yard pass to highlight SLU’s seven-play, 67-yard scoring drive to open the second half. Jones dived 1-yard for his third TD on the night to put the Lions up 28-8 with 11:45 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals answered with a six-play, 72-yard scoring drive of their own as Bevil connected with Marcus Jackson for a big 46-yard gain down the right sideline then hit Hayes on a 13-yarder for the TD with 9:54 left in the third quarter.
A 68-yard Bevil-to-Powdrill pass got the Cardinals out of a third-and-26 hole on the third play of the fourth quarter, and they went on to complete the 11-play, 90-yard drive that pulled them to within 28-22 with 10:45 remaining. Marcus Jackson got the touchdown with a leaping catch in back of the end zone for the 2-yard score.
Seth Sebastikan was wide right on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 6:37 left, giving the Cardinals an opportunity to overcome their six-point deficit.
The Cardinals will return to the road this Saturday, Sept 25 for another taste of Southland Conference opposition when they play Stephen F. Austin State at 6 p.m. in Nacogdoches’ Homer Bryce Stadium.