HOUSTON — Southeastern Louisiana running back Kody Sutton rushed for a career-high 156 yards, while the Lion defense held Houston Baptist at bay in a 22-7 Southland Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.
Playing the majority of the game in a driving rain storm, the Lions (4-3, 3-2 Southland) avoided their first three-game losing skid since 2012. SLU held HBU (2-6, 0-5 Southland) to 199 total yards in the game to defeat the Huskies for the second straight season.
Sutton led a Lion rushing attack that grinded out 288 yards. Eugene Bethea (45 yards) and Julius Maracalin (41 yards, 1 TD) were the other key contributors to the Lion ground game.
SLU quarterback D’Shaie Landor completed 12-of-19 passes for 167 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Brandon Acker led the Lions with three catches for 62 yards, while Da’Quan Smith caught a touchdown.
The Lion defense was dominant throughout as HBU managed just 10 first downs. With the SLU defense making liberal use of its bench, defensive end Miki Fangatua was the standout with a sack, two tackles for loss and a safety. Fangatua, Kaelyn Henderson, Will Hines, Dereck Robinson and Tre’ Bennett had a team-high four tackles each.
The Lions limited HBU to 29 yards passing, forcing the Houston Baptist quarterback duo of Max Staver and Tony Dawson into a combined 5-for-15 passing.
After stopping HBU on its opening drive, the Lions took the ball deep into HBU territory. However, the drive stalled, and freshman kicker Jonathan Tatum missed a 39-yard field goal wide left.
The Lion defense gave Southeastern the lead late in the first quarter. Three plays after Harrison Heim downed a 50-yard punt at the 1-yard line, Fangatua tackled B.J. Kelly in the end zone, and the Lions took a 2-0 lead with 3:30 left in the opening quarter.
After the free kick, the Lions drove for their first touchdown of the game. A 34-yard return by William French set up SLU with good field position at the HBU 43. Six plays later, Landor found Smith on a 10-yard quick slant for a 9-0 Lion lead in the final minute of the first quarter. The touchdown was the first of Smith’s SLU career.
After forcing another punt, the Lions worked their way into Husky territory. However, HBU’s La’Travien Gee stripped Landor to give the Huskies the ball back at their 34-yard line and end the SLU scoring threat.
After Southeastern stopped HBU on the ensuing possession, the Lions took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:15 remaining. Landor connected on long passes to senior Dylan Bossier (35 yards) and Acker (27 yards) to highlight a quick five-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Trey Hallman capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown on an end around to give SLU a 16-0 lead in the final minute of the half, sending the Lions into the break in control.
HBU was the first offense to mount a major threat in the second half, moving into Lion territory. However, on a fourth-and-1, Javari Nichols and Caleb Young threw Terrance Peters for a loss to give SLU the ball back.
A 25-yard run by Bethea and a 24-yard pass from Landor to Acker set the Lions up with a goal-to-go situation as the game entered the fourth quarter. However, Bethea fumbled at the 2-yard line, and the Huskies pounced on the ball.
HBU couldn’t do anything, and the Lions took over at their own 34-yard line. Sutton broke loose for a 50-yard run on the opening play to move into the red zone. Three plays later, Maracalin walked in from 5 yards out to add to the Lion lead. Tatum missed the extra point, but the Lions led 22-0 with 9:24 remaining.
Southeastern’s bid for its first shutout since a 27-0 win over Northwestern State in 2009 was ended on the next Houston Baptist possession. Peters broke free down the right sideline and raced 77 yards to cut the SLU lead to 22-7 with 8:38 left in the game. The play accounted for more than a third of HBU’s offense on the day.
After the teams traded punts, Southeastern was able to finish the game by taking the final 6:45 off the clock.
Using a steady dose of Sutton, Maracalin and Bethea, the Lions churned away to give SLU its third league win of the season.
For the game, SLU controlled the clock for nearly 37 minutes.