In a rock ‘em, sock ‘em confrontation of ranked teams Saturday night, McNeese State used a powerful offensive line and a slippery and punish running back to put the Bears against the ropes.
But the Bears came up with the knockout punch — or kick.
In a week of miracle baseball comebacks, the Bears staged an amazing football comeback.
After an exchange of blows, place-kicker Eddie Camara got in the last kick, booting a 47-yard field goal with 23.5 seconds left to give UCA an incredible 27-26 victory over the Bears at Lake Charles, La.
They scored 10 points in the last 1:10.
Trailing McNeese State 26-17 with 3:23 left and the Cowboys seemingly in control, Wynrick Smothers capped a 72-yard drive with a 19-yard TD pass to Dezmin Lewis that followed a fourth-quarter scoring pass to Jesse Grandy.
Then, Lewis recovered an onside kick at the McNeese 35 with 1:10 left.
"We hadn’t executed the onside kick in practice. We’d get the wrong hop or bounces," said UCA coach Clint Conque. "We got the bounce this time and Dezmin did a great job doing what he was supposed to do to keep the ball from going out of bounds. Sometimes, you have to be good and sometimes you have to be lucky. And we got the bounce tonight."
"Grandy made a great reception over-the-top for a touchdown and Dezmin made an incredible catch in the corner of the end zone to give us a chance."
It came down to Camara’s foot. He nailed a 47-yard field goal with 23.5 seconds left.
"At halftime, I went up to Eddie and told him it would probably come down to a field goal," Conque said.
The gave UCA (5-2, 3-1) retention of the traveling Red Beans & Rice trophy and the first road victory in the seven-game series. More importantly, it kept them a game behind Southeastern Louisiana in the Southland Conference race. McNeese, suffering a devastating blow, fell to 4-2, 2-2 with its backs against the wall.
"I’m proud of football team and coaching staff," Conque said. "We had to make a few adjustments and clean things up. We were down to five offensive linemen because of suspensions and injuries. We told them we’re gonna coach the ones who want to win and want to be here and the result could be a rewarding victory."
Again, it was not a game for the faint of heart.
The game seemed to turn when the Cowboys shut down the UCA offense in the middle quarters. But the fourth quarter was an exchange of big plays and haymakers.
Leading 12-10 on a last-second field goal at the end of the half, the Cowboys used a short passing game to move deep into UCA territory, then released Marcus Wiltz up the middle for two runs, the last for an 11-yard touchdown. After the 80-yard, 13-play drive, the Cowboys led, 19-10, with 10:16 left.
The Bears, pretty much shut down since their first drive, used a couple of quarterback draws by Wynrick Smothers to drive 64-yards in five plays to close the gap. Smothers’ 33-yard pass to Jesse Grandy drew UCA within 19-17 with 8:14 left..
After an interception at the UCA 46, the Cowboys used a wildcat formation and Wiltz slipped through the UCA defense for a 29-yard touchdown run. They seemingly were in complete control with fewer than four minutes left.
The Bears, still with plenty of fight, drove within 26-24 with 1:10 left on the 19-yard pass from Smothers to Dezmin Lewis.
McNeese State, behind a strong offensive line, drove 90 yards in 14 plays and 80 yards in 13 plays for touchdowns and 75 yards for a field goal.
The Cowboys" Javaris Lewis missed an extra point but rebounded with a 31-yard field goal to give them a 12-10 lead at the half.
That field goal occurred on the final play of the half after a 43-yard punt return by Carey Davis and a personal-foul penalty after the completion. McNeese took 26 seconds to drive to the field goal and take the lead.
The Bears mixed their plays and used a lot of Jesse Grandy to drive 87 yards in 12 plays on their first possession for a touchdown, which occurred on a 36-yard pass from Smothers to Grandy. Smothers completed six of seven passes on that drive.
There was not much doing against the McNeese defense for the remainder of the half.
The Cowboys retaliated mixing their power game with play-action passing to drive 75 yards in 15 plays to a 20-yard field goal by Lewis.
Eddie Camara’s 41-yard field goal put the Bears up 10-9 with 14:14 left in the second quarter.
McNeese then returned to its power game and went 90 yards in 14 plays with Cody Stroud capping the march with a 15-yard scoring run. Lewis missed the extra point.
The Bears return home Saturday against Lamar.