HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana couldn’t have gotten any worse offensively following its 70-0 loss to Sam Houston State two weeks ago. But not only did the Lions get better, they had statistically their best offensive performance of the season, dropping a season-high 42 points on Stephen F. Austin on Saturday.

SLU scored on the ground, through the air and on special teams, compiling 487 total yards in a 42-27 win coach Ron Roberts said was a long time coming.

“Our offense responded tremendously,” Roberts said. “That was the coming out party I had been looking for for a while. I think our kids played with a lot of passion in the game and a lot of excitement. I was real pleased with our offense and the way they handled their business. Really, we were physically dominating up front, especially in the second half. That was great to see.”

The Lions rushed for 278 yards, threw for 209 and returned both a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns. It was the second punt return touchdown of the season for SLU and the first kickoff return for a score as Lions jumped to No. 3 in the conference with a 4-2 record.

SLU also limited SFA to less than 97 yards on its seven total returns in the contest.

“The punt return was a huge momentum boost there in the first quarter,” Roberts said. “It kind of carried us through it. Then when you go into halftime at 21-20, it’s because we’ve got a kickoff return for touchdown and we’ve got a punt return for a touchdown. Special teams won the game for us. It was a great job all across the board.”

Sweeping SLC honors

The Lions’ efforts Saturday night earned them a clean sweep of the weekly Southland Conference awards, the league announced Monday.

Freshman running back Xavier Roberson was named the SLC Offensive Player of the Week, sophomore defensive back Tyler Stoddard was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week and senior punter Beau Mothe claimed the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

The sweep was the first for Southeastern since the school joined the Southland Conference as a football member in 2005.

“It’s encouraging,” Roberts said of the accolades. “Those things are positive, and it’s something that we can build upon for the future.”

Roberson chalked up 117 rush yards and three touchdowns Saturday, reaching the century mark for the first time in his collegiate career. The true freshman, who hit the 100-yard mark with fellow freshman Rasheed Harrell (153), totaled 235 all-purpose yards in the contest, including a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“They’re getting better every week,” Roberts said of his freshman tailbacks. “They get better every week of practice. Every time they carry the ball, they get better. Those guys don’t need much of a crease. They’re both very explosive. They’re talented young men, and I think they’re both going to be very good running backs in the Southland Conference in the future.”

Stoddard led the team with 10 tackles and an interception in the game, in a defensive effort that helped limit the SFA offense that leads the SLC averaging 500 yards per game.

Mothe helped the Lions win the field position battle, punting the ball five times for an average of 45.2 yards. He also converted on a fake punt for the second time this season with a 21-yard pass to Stoddard, and a successful two-point conversion in the third quarter.

Playing for a new prize

SLU and Nicholls State have renewed the River Bell Classic in recent years, but the 2012 edition of the rivalry will be a little extra special.

With the help of alumni from both SLU and Nicholls, a new trophy was molded from cypress and glass that will be presented to the winner of the game Saturday.

The new bells have glass tiles that represent both universities, markings that represent Hammond and Thibodaux and an etching of the Mississippi River on the middle in front of the small centerpiece bell.

The new trophy was constructed by John Sammons, a Nicholls graduate and Wes Koon, an SLU alum, with much of the brainwork coming from Cameron Barr, another Lions alum.

“College rivalries, unfortunately, are kind of a dying breed. This is the fun part of it,” Barr said after presenting the prize.

“We really wanted something that reflected the quality of the two educational institutions and the rivalry. I really think Wes and John did an excellent job in capturing all that in the trophy.”