HAMMOND — Southeastern’s defense played so well in the first quarter that it forced Stephen F. Austin to turn to its backup quarterback.
But problems arose from there for the Lions.
Hunter Taylor picked apart the Lions defense rallying the Lumberjacks with four scoring drives. The last drive culminated in Zach Conque’s 1-yard run with 38 seconds left as SFA edged Southeastern 28-27 Saturday at Strawberry Stadium.
“It was a tough loss,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said after the Lions dropped to 3-3 overall, 2-2 in Southland Conference play. “We had a chance to put the thing away, and we just didn’t do what was necessary. We let them hang around, hang around. When it was on the line, we couldn’t come up with a stop.”
Southeastern led 20-0 in the second quarter before Taylor rallied SFA (2-5, 2-3). The Lions still led 27-21 when the Lumberjacks took over at their 28 with 5:38 to play.
Taylor directed a 16-play scoring drive that featured five third-down conversions. Mason Juhl’s extra point gave SFA its first lead of the game.
Southeastern had 27 seconds from the SLU 24 following the kickoff. The Lions picked up 20 yards before the clock ran out.
For Taylor, it was a clutch performance as he went 20 for 37 for 214 yards and three touchdowns. Conque, who threw and ran for more than 100 yards last week, had 20 yards passing and 39 yards rushing.
Quarterback D’Shaie Landor led the Lions, completing 13 of 23 passes for 201 yards and two scores. Freshman Julius Maracalin, whose 63-yard touchdown run gave SLU a 27-14 lead early in the third, finished with 86 yards rushing.
“Any time we lose I feel like I could have done something better,” Landor said. “That’s all I keep thinking about. It’s a tough loss. They played well. I think we played well at times, but we were too inconsistent.”
In the first half, Southeastern’s defense picked up where it left off last week when it held McNeese scoreless over the final two quarters.
The Lions held the Lumberjacks in check for most of the half and got a boost from their fourth defensive score of the season.
Southeastern led 20-0 early in the second, but momentum changed after SFA subbed out an ineffective Conque. Taylor moved SFA into Lions territory on three straight possessions. The last two were good for touchdowns which sliced the SLU lead to 20-14 at halftime.
The Lions offense was slow to start but got a boost after the Jacks recovered a fumbled punt at the SLU 36. Jordan Batiste sacked Conque on 3rd-and-14 causing a fumble. Tre’ Bennett snared the ball before it hit the ground and returned it 49 yards for the game’s first score.
An SFA three-and-out got the ball back, and the Lions quickly boosted their lead to 13-0. Byron Johnson caught a pass in the right flat and, sprung by Eugene Bethea’s block, turned up the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown.
Early in the second, Landor finished off an 80-yard drive with a 26-yard strike to Chris Briggs. Landor completed four passes for 75 yards to highlight the drive.
Taylor got SFA on the board with a 14-yard scoring pass to Braxton Bearden. The extra point cut the deficit to 20-7 with 2:41 left in the half.
The Jacks got the ball back at their 41 with 24 seconds left, and it was just enough time for another score. A 25-yard run by Joshawa West looked like it might set up a field goal try. Instead, Taylor De’Quann Ruffin beat man coverage for a 34-yard touchdown reception with two seconds left in the half.
“I’m not real happy with a lot of people,” Roberts said. “I’m not happy with myself. We’ve got some soul searching to do. We’re 3-3 and we’ve got to figure out how to win some football games.”