SAN ANTONIO — Fresh off their historic win in San Marcos last weekend, the Incarnate Word Cardinals returned home to open Southland Conference play with momentum and continued to show why this season could be a special one.
UIW scored early and often as they pounded the McNeese State Cowboys 31-0 at Benson Stadium on Saturday afternoon, putting in their reserves in the fourth quarter to close out the game.
“We hung in there for all four quarters,” UIW Head Coach Eric Morris said. “I’m super proud [of the defensive effort].”
The Cardinals opened the game with a 12 play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a Kevin Brown touchdown to put the home team up 7-0. McNeese fumbled the kickoff return and UIW recovered, giving them an ideal field position to start the next drive. Quarterback Cameron Ward hit Taylor Grimes for a 1-yard score and UIW went up 14 points quickly.
McNeese (1-3, 0-1) went three and out on the next drive thanks to a Cardinals defense led by Kelechi Anyalebechi. UIW looked prime to score another touchdown for the third consecutive drive but the Cowboys’ defense held them to a field goal attempt from their own 25 but it was wide.
After being held scoreless for three straight drives, UIW got back on the scoreboard in the second quarter when a scrambling Ward found Trevor Begue for a 56-yard touchdown reception, putting the Cardinals up 21-0 with 2:56 to play in the first half.
“As a play-caller, I get frustrated at times,” Morris said. “But sitting back thinking about it, all three sides did a great job of executing and coming out and playing together.”
The Cowboys looked to finally break into the scoring column but Moses Reynolds stopped Dontay Hargove on a fourth and one attempt inside the red zone as McNeese turned the ball over on downs.
Ward and Grimes connected for the second time on an 11-yard score, capping off a drive that went 82 yards on 12 plays.
For the game, Ward finished 29 of 49 for 352 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals had a total of 468 yards of offense.
UIW preserved their shutout win when Rashon Davis intercepted a pass on McNeese’s final scoring opportunity of the game. The Cardinals allowed just 290 yards of total offense in the game and McNeese quarterback Cody Orgeron completed 22 of 36 passes for 215 yards and an interception.
“(Anyalebechi)’s effort and style on the field are just incredible,” Morris said of his senior linebacker. “He’s only been playing linebacker for two years, which is scary to me how good he’s been becoming so fast. He’s definitely the leader of the defense.”
The UIW Cardinals are now 3-1 (1-0, Southland) on the season and will return to the field next Saturday when they face Northwestern State at 6 p.m.