HAMMOND - With his team having just finished a disappointing 3-8 season with a convincing 31-14 victory against Nicholls State in the River Bell Classic, Southeastern Louisiana coach Mike Lucas walked off the field at Strawberry Stadium on Thursday thankful for the trophy his team just won and hopeful for the future.
“I’m just happy for our seniors to go out with a win,” Lucas said.
The victory was just the tonic Southeastern Louisiana needed to take into the offseason.
Nicholls State (1-10, 0-7 Southland Conference) entered the game having won 10 of the past 11 games, including three in a row, in the series.
Southeastern Louisiana (3-8, 1-6) entered the game with a 12-game Southland Conference losing streak October 2010.
Those streaks are no more.
But Southeastern Louisiana does face some questions in the upcoming months.
Should Lucas return after consecutive 2-9 and 3-8 seasons? If he does return, should he be able to retain or change some of his assistant coaches, especially the ones on a defense that allowed more than 35 points in seven games this season?
Lucas wasn’t worried Thursday.
“My future,” he said. “I’m going to go home tonight and get a hamburger and watch the games that I TiVo-ed. That’s as much future as I’ve thought about.”
Southeastern Louisiana was outgained 412-393, but yardage wasn’t an issue against Nicholls State.
Southeastern Louisiana took its first possession of the game and drove 47 yards on five plays to set up a 21-yard field goal by Seth Sebastian, which made the score 3-0.
The Lions defense then stopped Nicholls State from scoring twice on drives inside the 30-yard line in the first quarter. The first stop came when Southeastern Louisiana’s David Durden recovered a fumble at the 38-yard line. The second came when Colonels kicker Andrew Dolan missed wide left on a 39-yard field goal.
The inability of Nicholls State to finish off drives with points continued in the second quarter. The Colonels drove 71 yards on 18 plays to the Southeastern Louisiana 1-yard line, but the possession ended when quarterback LaQuintin Caston fumbled the ball out of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal with 3:15 remaining in the first half.
Southeastern Louisiana then drove 80 yards on 13 plays for a touchdown on the ensuing possession to increase its lead to 10-0. Lions quarterback Brian Young finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kory Theodore in the corner of the end zone with 2.7 seconds remaining in the half.
“This win was big for us, because it gives us a little momentum,” Theodore said.
The Lions increased their lead to 17-0 when running back LaTruan Weary scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Southeastern Louisiana running back Zeke Jones scored on a 6-yard touchdown run to increase the Lions lead to 24-0 in the third quarter. The score came one play after a 60-yard punt return by Brandon Collins.
Young threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dean Johnson on the last play of the quarter to make the score 31-0.
Nicholls State quarterback Landry Klann scored both of the Colonels’ touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The first, his 2-yard TD run, was set up by a long kickoff return. And the second, his 2-yard TD pass to Kenyad Blair, came after SLU botched a kickoff return.
“I thought we played well,” Lucas said.