HAMMOND — Despite Southeastern Louisiana’s home opener against Florida Tech falling between an emotional conference victory and a trip to face an FBS opponent, senior safety Jordan Batiste said Saturday’s opponent won’t take them by surprise.
“Florida Tech’s not sneaking up on us,” Batiste said. “We’re watching film just like we did for Northwestern (State) and preparing just like last week. We want to play well in front of our home crowd for the first time.
“We’re not taking them lightly at all.”
Possibly the biggest challenge facing No. 18 Southeastern (1-0) is whether Division II Florida Tech (0-1) will have the Lions undivided attention?
SLU returns for the first time since a season-opening 34-20 victory over Northwestern State.
Before the Lions can turn their attention to next week’s trip to Ohio University of the Mid-American Conference, they must prepare for the task at hand.
“We still practice hard and prepare hard,” offensive tackle Aaron Reed said. “Obviously it’s not the same thing as the Northwestern game, but we have to come in focused and know what we have to do and get better. It’s really not about them.”
Opening the home portion of the season, where SLU plays five times this season, is expected to provide an emotional lift to a team that’s 10-1 in home openers since the program was restored.
“Inside the stadium, our kids have been affected by the emotions of the game and fed off our crowd,” coach Ron Roberts said. “That allows you to raise the bar a little at home and hopefully carry you over to the rest of the season.”
Florida Tech, located in Melbourne, Florida, dropped its opener 31-28 to Div. II Newberry, surrendering 495 total yards that included 335 on the ground.
Roberts said Florida Tech’s strengths include their dual-threat quarterback Sean Ashley, who passed for 194 yards and two TDs last week, along with 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end Gabe Hughes (six catches for 60 yards) and 5-11, 213-pound halfback Trevor Sand (13 carries for 134 yards, TD).
“They’re going to try and spread us out and throw the football,” he said.
Roberts also said he’s committed to a more balanced attack after the Lions rushed 61 times for 438 yards against 10 pass attempts for 15 yards in the win over Northwestern State.
“The handcuffs will be off D’Shaie (Landor),” Roberts said of his quarterback. “We’re going to let him grip it and rip it and see where the ball lands.”
Landor proved adept as a runner, leading SLU with 125 yards and a TD with redshirt freshman Julius Maracalin carrying 12 times for 120 yards and senior Xavier Roberson 15 times for 90 yards and a score.
“If we want to be a championship-type team like we know we can be, we have to prepare every week like we’re playing a conference game or a big game,” Batiste said. “Every week’s a big game. Wins are hard to come by in college football. You’ve got to earn them. Why would we waste a week getting better?”