HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana’s three-game road swing over. So is its two-game losing streak.
Nothing like a 56-point league victory on the road to reinvigorate the No. 11 Lions (3-2, 1-0 Southland Conference) heading into their first conference home game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium against Northwestern State (2-2, 0-0).
The game will be regionally televised by the Southland Television Network.
“I’m sure our fans are excited to get us back home almost after a month,” SLU linebacker Kaleb Muse said. “It can be hard to stay focused going on the road. We’ll be more focused at home and execute better, and things will start clicking.”
Consecutive losses away from Strawberry Stadium against Tulane and Southeast Missouri, the latter occurring in the final seconds, threatened to unravel Southeastern’s season of high expectations, which included a preseason top-10 ranking and poll selection to repeat as Southland champions.
Last week at Incarnate Word, the Lions scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions, established a 28-7 halftime lead and unleashed a 28-point third quarter en route to a 63-7 blowout.
SLU rushed for 337 of its 564 total yards and scored a school-record seven rushing touchdowns. The 63 points were the most the Lions scored in conference play, and their 56-point margin of victory was the school’s largest in conference play.
“I was most probably pleased with how we handled adversity, coming off Southeast Missouri,” Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said Tuesday during his media luncheon. “Our guys started the game fast and kept that throttle down for four quarters, which was nice to see, and we got a lot of guys in the ballgame.”
Quarterback Bryan Bennett, named the SLC’s Offensive Player of the Week, accounted for more than 300 yards of offense and four touchdowns. The senior completed 13 of 24 passes for 212 yards and 2 TDs and added 89 yards rushing and two scores.
Junior Kody Sutton led the Lions’ powerful ground game with 16 carries for 104 yards and a TD. Devante Scott led all receivers with five catches for 99 yards and a score.
“Coach has been preaching about having a breakthrough game,” tight end Jeremy Meyers said. “It was just a matter of everyone getting on the same page and players making the plays they’re supposed to make. It seemed like we were kind of in a little lull and needed a couple of big plays to spark us and get the ball rolling.”
Northwestern State is the Lions’ longest-running opponent. Saturday marks the 58th time the programs have met.
The Lions, who trail 29-28 in the series, have won the last two games but are braced for the red-hot Demons, who are riding a two-game win streak — including a last-second 30-27 victory at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 20.
“This game has more implications than just a conference game,” Roberts said. “It’s an in-state rivalry game and Northwestern’s coming off a huge win at (Louisiana) Tech. They’re on an upswing. Coach (Jay) Thomas has done a great job, and we respect a lot of what they’ve done. We’ve got to play better. We’ve started on that journey toward that direction, and we’ve got to continue.”
Former SLU head coach Mike Lucas, who was fired following the 2011 season after five years, is in his first year as Demons defensive coordinator. ... Roberts said junior All-SLC cornerback Harlan Miller will miss his second straight game with a dislocated shoulder. ... Running back Darrius Guy, who rushed 14 times for 51 yards and a TD, will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury suffered in the Southern Utah game, Roberts said. ... With a 44-yard return, kick return specialist Xavier Roberson became the school’s career leader in kickoff return yardage with 1,527 yards.