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Demons Disappointed After Another McNeese Loss
NATCHITOCHES – Dudley Guice tried to be his usual, happy-go-lucky self.
But this one hurt too much.
The jovial Northwestern State receiver blinked back tears after the Demons fell 24-17 to McNeese State Saturday, the normal, 100-watt smile wiped from his face.
“You work so hard,” Guice said. “You grind five or six days a week and take your test on Saturday. Of course it hurts when you fall short.”
For Guice and the other 12 seniors who played their last game at Turpin Stadium, it was doubly disappointing - in all likelihood, this was their last shot to win a championship.
In fact, unless something improbable happens next week, an entire class will have come through Natchitoches without winning the Southland Conference or making the national playoffs - the two goals which have been the standards for success at NSU. The only players who were on the 2004 team that won the SLC redshirted that year.
“They’re very disappointed,” said coach Scott Stoker. “These seniors have been through some rough times in their careers. I wish it would have worked out better, but you’ve got to make plays in big ballgames. I don’t think we ever consistently made plays tonight.”
Especially not on offense, where Northwestern, working for nearly the entire game with two freshmen playing out of position on the line, gained only 227 yards and averaged 2.5 yards per rush against a McNeese defense that has looked vulnerable. The defense kept the Demons in the game, but eventually wore down after being on the field for most of the second half.
The game turned early in the third quarter, when McNeese mounted a 15-play touchdown drive to break a 10-10 tie. The Cowboys got an interception by Bunkie’s Jamelle Juneau on a badly thrown John Hundley pass on the next offensive play, then drove for another score to take a two-touchdown lead.
True to form in this series, Hundley and Guice hooked up for a 28-yard TD in the final minute, and the Demons had a shot at recovering the ensuing on-side kick. McNeese has won the last four meetings between the teams, all by a touchdown or less.
“This was typical Northwestern State-McNeese State,” said Cowboys coach Matt Viator. “It was very physical, there were some good hits by both defenses. It’s typical of what we thought it would be, the games are always hard fought. Any time you get a win in Natchitoches, it’s a huge win.”
The loss dropped NSU (6-5, 3-3 SLC) out of a first-place tie in the Southland. McNeese State (7-3, 4-2) and Texas State are now tied for the top spot.
The Demons would need to win at Stephen F. Austin and for McNeese to lose at Central Arkansas and Texas State to lose at Sam Houston to earn a tie for the SLC title, and would need Nicholls State to beat Southeastern Louisiana to earn the league’s automatic playoff bid in the complicated three-team tiebreaker.
Northwestern, of course, could have avoided pinning their hopes on such an unlikely sequence of events by winning Saturday. But in the big moment, the Demons came up just a little bit short.
“It was two good teams out there tonight,” Guice said. “Somebody’s got lose, somebody’s got to win. Everybody can’t come out with a ‘W.’”
“They make one more play than you make,” Stoker said. “To get right there, 30 minutes away in the second half … it’s frustrating.”
Demons disappointed after another McNeese loss
By Jeff Matthews, The Alexandria Town Talk (LA)
Photo Credit: Gary Hardamon/NSU photo lab