NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin built a 17-0 halftime lead to spark a 27-17 win over the No. 8 Lions in Southland Conference action Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium.
Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett, a Walter Payton Award candidate, was nursing a sore shoulder and sat out the first half as the Lions (6-3, 4-1 Southland) managed 55 total yards and no points.
Southeastern was penalized also 16 times for 157 yards in the game.
Bennett, however, came on in the second half to give Southeastern a spark, but SFA (6-2, 3-1 Southland) was able to hold off the Lions.
The defending Southland Conference champions had their league winning streak snapped at 14 games, losing to a league opponent for the first time since a 70-0 loss at Sam Houston State on Nov. 3, 2012.
After replacing senior Jordan Barnett to start the second half, Bennett finished 8-for-15 for 186 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for his team-high 13th touchdown of the season. Jeff Smiley was the Lions’ top target with four catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Micah Eugene led the Lions with 11 tackles, while Kaleb Muse and JQ Sandolph each had sacks.
Running back Gus Johnson led the Lumberjacks with 116 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, while quarterback Zach Conque had 160 yards on 14-of-21 passing while also rushing for a touchdown.
SFA jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the opening drive of the first quarter. Johnson capped the drive with a 7-yard scoring run.
Meanwhile, the Southeastern offense struggled as the Lions picked up their initial first down of the game with 11:43 left in the second quarter. SLU moved into SFA territory, but Barnett underthrew a fourth-and-6 try to give SFA the ball back.
Eight plays later, Johnson capped a 59-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put the Lumberjacks up 14-0 with 5:47 left in the half.
Jordan Wiggs knocked in a 25-yard field goal to take a 17-0 on the final play of the first half.
Bennett entered the game in the third quarter, and on the ensuing drive, a 30-yard run by junior Xavier Roberson highlighted a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Bennett scampered in from 8 yards out to cut the lead to 17-7 with 11:40 left in the third quarter.
After a SLU stop, the Lions again moved into SFA territory as a 37-yard strike from Bennett to Smiley highlighted a 10-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Senior Ryan Adams capped the march with a 45-yard field goal to cut the Lumberjack advantage to 17-10 with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter.
SFA answered early in the fourth quarter as 40-yard run by Johnson set up a 26-yard field goal by Wiggs to give the Lumberjacks a 20-10 lead with 13:04 remaining in the contest.
After Southeastern was stopped, UCA drove to near midfield and decided to go for it on fourth-and-short. Junior A.J. Bowen stopped Conque to give the Lions the ball back.
Southeastern drove deep into SFA territory, extending the drive with a 21-yard strike from Bennett to Devante Scott. However, two plays later, sophomore Patrick Martin stepped in front of a Bennett pass and returned it 75 yards. Three plays later, Conque dove in from 10 yards out to provide SFA with a 27-10 lead with 3:23 left.
Less than a minute later, Bennett and Smiley connected on an 83-yard catch and run for a score to cut the lead to 27-17 with 2:24 remaining. Southeastern’s onside kick try failed.
Southeastern has an open date and will then return home to host Houston Baptist on Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.