MOSCOW Field of Dreams? How about a dream Fields.
Freshman running back Henry Fields had a dream day, rushing for a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns to help McNeese State stop the University of Idaho 23-20 in the opening round of the Division I-AA playoffs at the UI Kibbie Dome Saturday afternoon.
Fields' second touchdown came on a 1-yard run with 38 seconds left to give the Cowboys their sixth victory in the final 2:30 of the game this season. The win also puts the Lake Charles, La., school in the quarterfinals next Saturday against Northern Iowa, which beat Eastern Washington 17-14 Saturday. McNeese State is 9-3 on the season and has won seven straight games.
The loss was a devasting one for the Vandals, who end their season with a 9-3 record. Idaho hurt itself time and again, but was still in there at the end before Mike Hollis' 52-yard field goal went wide to the left and appeared short as time expired, bringing an end to the game, which bordered more on the bizzare than wild.
The Vandals held a statistical edge in almost every category except for rushing and big plays. Behind Fields, McNeese State rolled up 295 yards rushing and came up with the big plays when needed.
Idaho, on the other hand, came up with big mistakes when it didn't need them.
After Fields scored the go-ahead touchdown, McNeese State left the door open when kicker Jose Larios missed the extra point, leaving the score at 23-20.
Following the score, a McNeese State cheerleader carried a large flag with the school emblem ''M'' on it onto the field. Since he crossed the middle of the field (widthwise) and was on Idaho's half of the sidelines, his action drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating, forcing MSU to kick off from the 20.
After Ronnie White returned the kick to the Idaho 38, UI quarterback Doug Nussmeier found receiver Alan Allen open over the middle for a 27-yard gain to the McNeese State 35 with 13 seconds left.
Nussmeier then threw an incomplete pass, but Idaho was penalized five yards for illegal motion, putting the ball on the Cowboy 40 with nine seconds left. Nussmeier found receiver Yo Murphy on a quick out pattern to get the 5 yards back, leaving only five seconds left, setting up Hollis' attempt.
''I really thought we were going to win it,'' Idaho coach John L. Smith said. ''I felt even when the defense was out there, we were going to win it.''
''There was never a doubt in my mind,'' Idaho defensive end Jeff Robinson said. ''I thought the game was going to go into overtime. It was a good game. They made the key plays when the chips were on the line.''
Idaho's big-play offense couldn't come up with the big plays on the day, despite rolling up 391 yards of offense. McNeese State held running back Sherriden May to 99 yards on 27 carries and forced Idaho's quick-strike offense to short gains.
The Vandals had five drives reach inside the Cowboy 30, but could only get two touchdowns. The other drives resulted in a lost fumble and two field goals.
''We didn't move the ball consistently well enough like we should have to win the game,'' Idaho offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. ''We had a couple of turnovers early (an interception in McNeese territory) that hurt us a lot. We could have had a couple of scores and probably a comfortable lead. We just didn't get the ball in the end zone enough, which has been the key to our success all year. If our defense holds them to 23 points, we should win the football game. But give them (the Cowboys) credit. They played well on defense.''
McNeese State's offense consisted of Fields and little else. While he carried the ball 21 times, he broke three big runs a 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a 55-yarder in the third quarter to set up another touchdown, and a 34-yarder to start the final scoring drive. Outside of those three runs, he was held to 67 yards on 18 carries, an average of less than four yards per rush.
He wasn't alone, however, as freshman quarterback Kerry Joseph showed his quickness and athleticism by avoiding several sacks. He also had an 8-yard run on a quarterback draw and a 28-yard completion during the game-winning drive.
''Their quarterback is young but when the game is on the line, he made the big plays,'' Robinson said. ''Fields runs hard and he's a good player. Those two definitely are the best part of their offense. They have good skill players.''
The Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 lead, picking up a 42-yard field goal on its first possesion and then using Fields' 68-yard run with 9:47 left in the second quarter.
Idaho answered with a 13-play (with only four passes) scoring drive and used more than six minutes off the clock. Idaho cut the lead to 13-7 when Nussmeier dropped back and scrambled around before he threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Walter Saunders.
The Vandals then took a 14-10 lead into halftime as they scored on their next possession, thanks to a poor McNeese punt that gave the Vandals the ball on the Cowboys 48 with 2:13 left. This time, Nussmeier found Murphy in the corner of the end zone for a 21-yard TD pass.
''We had problems controlling him and containing him,'' McNeese State coach Bobby Keasler said of Nussmeier. ''We tried to put pressure on him all day but he's an excellent quarterback, by far the best we've seen this season.''
McNeese State regained the lead to start the second half as Fields broke a 55-yard run before being caught by UI safety Jeff Jordan at the Vandals 8. Three runs by Bryan Foster, the latter from 2 yards out, put McNeese State ahead 17-14.
Idaho tied the game on its first possession of the half, using 14 plays and 5:00 off the clock before settling for a 36-yard field goal from Hollis.
The Vandals again used time off the clock in marching down the field, but the drive again stalled and Hollis hit from 37 yards to put Idaho ahead 20-17 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was then McNeese State's turn to use the clock and it ate up more than eight minutes of the final quarter as it marched down the field before Idaho held inside its 10. With the ball on the 7, McNeese State opted to go for a field goal, but Larios hooked a 25-yard attempt wide to the left with 6:42 remaining.
After an exchange of punts, Idaho took over on its own 30 with 3:28 left, hoping to run out the clock. The Vandals were on the move and had forced the Cowboys to use two timeouts, but then stopped itself.
After May picked up four yards on a second-and-9 to put the ball at the 50, Murphy was whistled for a personal foul after the play for throwing an elbow at a McNeese player.
''I heard the whistle blow but he had been under my facemask before in the game and I just lost control,'' he said. ''The thing about it is that I swung and missed. But I should have never done that.''
The result left Idaho with a third-and-20 at its own 35 and less than two minutes left. Nussmeier's third-down pass then fell incomplete and the Vandals were forced to punt. If Idaho had picked up a first down, penalty or not, it probably would have been able to run out the clock.
''That hurt us a lot,'' Smith said. ''It shouldn't have happened and I never expected that. That's all I'm going to say about it.''
Following a 36-yard punt, McNeese State took over at its 29 with 1:29 and one timeout left.
Lining up in a shotgun formation, Joseph handed off to Fields, who broke through a big hole and then cut to the sidelines before Jordan knocked him out of bounds after a 34-yard gain to the Idaho 37. Joseph then picked up eight yards on a quarterback draw.
With about a minute left, Joseph dropped back to pass and found Skeet Owens alone on the right sideline for a 28-yard gain to the Idaho 1.
''I saw that the cornerback had settled and no one was running with him (Owens),'' Joseph said. ''I figured they would be in a nickel package, but I was surprised he was that open.''
After Idaho stopped Joseph on a quarterback sneak, Fields bulled in off left tackle for the score.
''This is a tough way for the seniors to go out,'' said Nussmeier. ''What they did in the off-season and all the work they put in, it's tough.''
''We always feel as a football team if you keep it close, you have a chance,'' Keasler said. ''I think we beat one heck of a football team today.''
1McNeese St.3 7 7 623 Idaho0 14 6 020 McNeese St. FG Jose Larios 42
McNeese St. Henry Fields 68 run (Larios kick)
IdahoWalter Saunders 17 pass from Doug Nussmeier (Mike Hollis kick)
IdahoYo Murphy 19 pass from Nussmeier (Hollis kick)
McNeese St.Bryan Foster 2 run (Larios kick)
IdahoFG Hollis 36
IdahoFG Hollis 37
McNeeseFields 1 run (kick failed)
First downs 14 21
Passing 75 269
Return Yards 57 69
Punts 5-30.6 4-30.75
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-36 6-45
Time of Possession 29:38 30:22
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: McNeese Henry Fields 21-223, Kerry Joseph 11-24, Bobby Guercio 5-21, Bryan Foster 7-17, Chris Fontenette 1-5, Eric Foster 1-5. Idaho: Sherriden May 27-99, Doug Nussmeier 7-21, Wind Henderson 4-7, Lavoni Kidd 3-minus-2, Alan Allen 1-minus-3.
PASSING: McNeese Kerry Joseph 8-15-0-75. Idaho Doug Nussmeier 19-31-1-269.
RECEIVING: McNeese Skeet Owens 2-42, Adam Henry 2-22, Tom Pere 1-12, Henry Fields 1-1, Bobby Guercio 1-5, Sam Breaux 1-minus-7. Idaho Yo Murphy 4-59, Walter Saunders 4-46, Alan Allen 3-58, Paul Burke 2-37, Sherriden May 2-31, Ronnie White 2-23, Curtis Richardson 2-15.