Cardinals all set to invade McNeese State

Published 10:35 am Friday, November 16, 2018

BEAUMONT, Texas – The week that fans on both sides of the aisle look forward to every year has arrived. Rivalry week has descended on the Lamar University and McNeese campuses as the two squads prepare to close out 2018 season. For the first time since LU brought back the program prior to the 2010 season, the game means more to both teams that just playing for pride.

The Cardinals are in the midst of one of their best runs in program history – a five-game win streak – the longest since the 1972 campaign and enter the week in a three-way tie for third in Southland standings (6-4/5-3 SLC). Big Red is currently just a game back of league leaders Nicholls and Incarnate Word (UIW has completed its conference schedule and has already won a share of the league title). With an LU victory, and a Nicholls’ loss tonight, the Cardinals could finish as high as a tie for second in the league standings.

After starting the season 1-4 and 0-3 in Southland Conference play, the Cardinals have been unstoppable rattling off five-straight wins to thrust themselves into heart of the conference race and an outside shot at the NCAA FCS Playoffs for the first time in program history. Big Red’s turnaround from last season is gaining national traction as it tied for the fourth-best turnaround in the country.

Saturday’s opponent is in the exact same boat but arriving from a different direction. Ranked 22nd nationally, the Cowboys were in the driver’s seat for the conference title just four weeks ago and enter the regular-season finale with the exact same record as LU but has dropped two straight and three of the past four games. McNeese is coming off a heartbreaking three-point setback last week to Northwestern State in double overtime.

The Cardinals have a chance to do something Saturday that it has not done since the return of the sport. If the Cardinals can get past McNeese it would be the program’s third-straight win against a ranked team (fourth consecutive if you include UIW who is currently ranked 24th) this season.

For the Cardinals to get back past McNeese it is going to have to be done against arguably the toughest defense in the Southland Conference. The Cowboys are giving up less than 25 points per contest and holding teams to just 103 rush yards per game. If you flip the script, LU has turned its season around behind the league’s best ground attack (247.4 rush yards per game). Something has to give when these two rivals step on the field.

Unfortunately for the Red and White, history is not on the Cardinals’ side. Big Red has managed just nine wins all-time in the series and trails the all-time series 9-26-1 (.264). Oddly, the Cardinals have had better success in Lake Charles than in games played in Beaumont. The Cards are 5-11 (.313) all-time in games played across the border compared to just a 4-15-1 (.225) mark in Beaumont. LU’s last win in the series came during the 2014 season when the Cardinals defeated McNeese on a late field goal.

Saturday’s game will kick off at 3 p.m. from Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La. The 3 p.m. start is an adjustment from the original schedule of 6 p.m. The game can be heard live on Newstalk 560 and will be streamed live on ESPN3.