Southeastern has little room for error facing Houston Baptist _lowres

Photo by Randy Bergeron/SLU Public Information Southeastern running back Kody Sutton runs away from Stephen F. Austin defenders Allen Stewart and Justin Owens in the first half Saturday at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond.

HAMMOND — The past two Southland Conference championship seasons for Southeastern Louisiana haven’t been without their share of adversity.

The difference, though, between those previous teams, which went on to hoist league trophies and participate in postseason play, was that they had time to rally to continue the program’s upward trend.

This year’s team — which has already reached the midway point — must dig down deep and quickly, starting Saturday when Southeastern (3-3, 2-2 in SLC play) visits Houston Baptist (2-5, 0-4) for a 2 p.m. kickoff.

“We’re not going desperation mode,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said. “We’re more disappointed than anything. We’re going to do what we do.”

SLU finds itself mired in its first two-game conference losing streak in three seasons, tumbling to an unfamiliar tie for fourth place with Lamar (3-3, 2-2) with five league games remaining, three of which are on the road.

“At 8-3, you’ve got a good chance of getting into the playoffs,” SLU quarterback D’Shaie Landor said. “We have no room for error. We’ve got to execute at a high level and play how we need to play in order to get into the playoffs. We still have a lot to play for. We can’t let another one slip by.”

Players remarked about how vocal the team’s leadership was two weeks ago in the wake of SLU’s 21-7 road loss at McNeese State.

That same group, made up of seniors and position group leaders, was put to the test this week after a heartbreaking 28-27 homecoming loss to Stephen F. Austin — a game the Lumberjacks drove 72 yards in 17 plays and won with 38 seconds remaining.

“This is not what I envisioned, but anything can happen,” SLU senior cornerback Harlan Miller said. “You just have to deal with it. Everybody has a positive attitude about the situation. They’re willing to accept the challenge.”

Offensively, that means having to move on without another of its cornerstones in senior running back/kick return specialist Xavier Roberson, who suffered a broken lower leg last week.

That compounded the Lions’ troubles after leading wide receiver Jeff Smiley suffered a season-ending knee injury the previous week.

“It’s always bad when you see one of your teammates go down,” said Landor, who has completed 39 of 83 passes for 670 yards and three TDs and added another 162 and three scores on the ground. “We’ll play for them these next few weeks. People will step up and do other things well to take up the slack.”

SLU’s defense, which has slipped in the SLC to third in points allowed (24.7) and total defense (373.0), looks to rebound after surrendering a five-minute, game-winning drive in which they allowed five third-down conversions and were flagged for pass interference inside the 10-yard line.

HBU’s 6-foot-6 quarterback Max Staver, who completed 62 of 131 passes for 843 yards and four TDs, is the Huskies’ top threat.

“We all believe we have a chance to make it,” said Miller, who has 26 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. “We still have something to play for, not just the seniors, but everybody. Coach says football doesn’t last forever, and one day you’ll have to hang up your cleats. We’re not ready to hang up the cleats.”