NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Junior Willie Jefferson led a defensive effort that saw Stephen F. Austin record nine sacks in a 37-17 homecoming victory over McNeese State (3-5/2-3 SLC) Saturday afternoon at Homer Bryce Stadium. The win moved SFA to 3-5 on the season and 2-2 in Southland Conference play.
The game, which was expected to be a showcase of the league's top two teams in the preseason, pitted two programs against each other that were headed in the wrong direction entering the day. The Lumberjacks were coming off a 57-21 victory at Nicholls, which ended a five-game skid, and the Cowboys had lost three-straight games.
After a strong opening possession that saw SFA take an early 7-0 lead, the offense sputtered and the visitors from Lake Charles took advantage scoring 17 unanswered points. The Lumberjacks were able to cut the deficit to four points, 17-13, heading into halftime with field goals from freshman Jordan Wiggs (19 and 21 yards). SFA started the second half by once again moving the ball into the red zone, but for a third consecutive drive were forced to settle for a field goal.
Sophomore quarterback Brady Attaway got the offense back on track midway through the third quarter when he capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass to junior Cordell Roberson in the back of the end zone. The touchdown reception was Roberson's sixth of the season, and leaves him seven shy of the school's all-time record.
Once SFA regained the advantage, the defense took control of the contest. The 'Jacks held McNeese State to 224 yards of total offense, and only 30 yards rushing. When McNeese quarterback Cody Stroud dropped back to pass, he was given no time to find his targets. SFA dropped the Cowboys' quarterback nine times, including a school record 4.5 sacks from Jefferson. It marked the second time in has many weeks that SFA's defense has held its opponent to less than 230 yards of total offense. Junior Jordan Aubrey led the defense with 12 tackles, including eight solo stops, while classmate Ryan Epperson added 10 tackles, including an interception he returned 68 yards to set up another SFA touchdown.
If Jefferson's record-breaking performance wasn't enough, he picked off a Stroud pass in the end zone for a score to give SFA an insurmountable advantage. It marked the second time this season Jefferson has picked off a pass for a score.
Attaway completed 31 passes to 10 different targets for 248 yards and one touchdown. While Attaway completed 73 percent of his passes, the running backs kept the McNeese State defense honest. SFA's backfield gashed the Cowboys' defense for 187 yards on 42 carries. Junior Jeremy Barnes led the team with 14 carries for 68 yards and a score, while freshman Fred Ford added 12 rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
SFA closed out the contest with 30 unanswered points, while the Lumberjack defense held McNeese State scoreless for the final 44:09.
The Lumberjacks return to action Saturday, Nov. 5, when they travel to Beaumont, Texas, to take on Lamar. The game against the Cardinals is slated to begin at 6 p.m.