STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Cody Orgeron threw a pair of late fourth-quarter touchdown passes and broke loose for a 19-yard touchdown run in the second overtime, leading McNeese to a 40-37 victory over Tarleton State on Saturday night to kick off the Football Championship Subdivision spring season.
Frank Wilson, the first African-American head coach at McNeese, made his Cowboys’ debut while the Texans played their first game as a Division I member.
A New Orleans native, Wilson was named the Cowboys’ 17th head coach on Jan. 16, 2020 after spending the previous four seasons as head coach at UTSA.
Tarleton State moved to D-I and the Western Athletic Conference in July. The Texans will compete as an independent program since the WAC dropped football in 2012. As a Division II member (1994-2019), the Texans were 5-8 against D-I opponents, including a 37-26 win at Stephen F. Austin in a 2019 season opener.
Orgeron, son of LSU coach Ed Orgeron, threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Mason Pierce with 2:46 remaining to pull the Cowboys to 31-24, and tossed a 12-yard score to Trevor Begue with 35 seconds left to force overtime. Orgeron also had a 5-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and a touchdown pass in the first.
Braelon Bridges ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns for Tarleton State. Steven Duncan threw for 220 yards and a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tariq Bitson. Ryheem Skinner scored the Texans’ first touchdown with a 4-yard run that tied the game at 10 just before halftime.
Jacob Abel opened the first extra period with a 21-yard field goal. The Texans’ Adrian Guzman answered with field goals from 37 and 45 yards before Orgeron’s game-winning run.
Sixteen schools across five FCS conferences played at least one game in the fall, but the majority moved to modified spring schedules. The regular season including conference championships will end April 17. A 16-team playoff bracket begins the following week. The national championship is scheduled for Saturday, May 15 in Frisco, Texas.
Schools which also played games in the fall will have their results considered in the selection process for the spring championship field.
The Cowboys will host Incarnate Word on Feb. 27 to begin their six-game Southland Conference schedule. McNeese, which suffered over $200 million in damages to the university due to hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020, had to replace its three-year-old turf at Cowboy Stadium.
Tarleton State is scheduled to play New Mexico State on Saturday at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. The Aggies are in the final stages of an agreement to host their three spring games in El Paso, home of the UTEP Miners, due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico. The Aggies are the only Football Bowl Subdivision program scheduled to compete in the FCS spring regular season.