PINEVILLE, La. -- The Louisiana College football team played their best, most complete game of the season as they celebrated the careers of 26 senior football players on Saturday afternoon in Pineville. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it came against the No. 1 team in the country, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. While the final score would be 51-20 in favor of the defending national champions, the game was far more evenly matched than the score would indicate. The Wildcats close the regular season on the road next week in Brownwood, Texas against Howard Payne University.
One of the keys for LC all year has been getting off to a fast start. Last week against Belhaven, the Wildcats did just that scoring twice in the first quarter. On Saturday it would be the Cru that came out of the blocks at light speed, scoring 24 points, on all four of their first quarter possessions. UMHB scored the first 17 points of the game, while holding the Wildcats to just six offensive plays. LC caught a break on their third drive of the game as a third down pass was tipped into the air by the Cru defensive back, falling into the waiting arms of receiver Leondre James. The junior transfer raced down the sideline for a 77-yard touchdown to put the Cats on the board with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.
After forcing a UMHB punt for the first time in the second quarter, the Wildcats engineered a methodical scoring drive that took more than seven minutes off the game clock. LC benefited from two offside penalties to extend their possession that eventually ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Wayne Griffin to Shedrick Davis, cutting into the lead 24-13. The momentum was quickly seized by the Cru as the ensuing kickoff was returned 95 yards for a touchdown by Bryce Wilkerson.
The LC offense went right back to work after the touchdown return with another lengthy drive, this time going 10 plays, but ending with a missed 31-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining in the half. The Wildcat defense forced a Cru punt and the half ended with Mary Hardin-Baylor ahead 31-13.
If the first half was a point fest, the second half turned into a punt fest, at least midway through the third quarter. The teams combined for five punts on the first five drives before the Cru were able to keep a drive going with the help of two pass interference calls and score on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 3:16 left in the third, pushing their lead to 37-13. The touchdown pass would be the only score in the third quarter for either team, as the Wildcats missed a 43-yard field goal attempt on the following drive.
The Cru scored the first two touchdowns of the fourth quarter on runs of 29 and 42 yards to extend their lead to 51-13 with 7:21 left in the game. The final Wildcat score came on another jump ball that was tipped into the air by a UMHB defender, this time falling into the grasp of Shedrick Davis for his second score of the game. His second touchdown ties Davis for second in school history with 27 touchdown grabs in his career.
The Wildcats faced off against the best defense in the country, and were able to move the ball with success through the game. LC is the only team thus far this year to score multiple touchdowns against the Cru and the only team to eclipse 300 total yards of offense, falling just 12 yards short of their season average at 435 in the game. Freshman quarterback Wayne Griffin had his most efficient day of the season throwing for 360 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-35 attempts, by far the best performance by a quarterback against UMHB this year. Leondre James led the Wildcats in yards with 113 on five catches and a touchdown, and Shedrick Daves made eight grabs for 91 yards and two scores. Aaron Woods carried the ball 23 times for 63 tough, hard-fought yards in the game.
Defensively three Wildcats finished with double-digit tackle number, led by junior safety Orel Ledet Jr. who had 13 total. Joshua Pickett added 11 and freshman Julius Johnson 10. Brandon Zimmer had another 1.5 sacks in the game and Cade Maxwell added a half sack leaving him 2.5 sacks shy of tying the school career record.
The Wildcats travel to Howard Payne next week for the 2017 regular season finale against the Yellowjackets. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game can be heard live on 104.3 FM The Bridge or online at www.1043thebridge.net. For the latest on Louisiana College football, follow @LC_ftball on Twitter or like LC Athletics on Facebook.