HAMMOND - It’s probably safe to say Southeastern Louisiana University’s football team is going to have to be very forgetful in a hurry heading into Saturday’s homecoming game with Sam Houston State.
The Lions (2-6, 0-4 Southland Conference) committed a school-record nine turnovers in a 55-29 loss to Central Arkansas last week. Sam Houston (8-0, 5-0) is ranked No. 4 in the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Poll and No. 5 in the FCS Coaches Poll. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. at Strawberry Stadium.
“Nobody in America is going to win a football game with nine turnovers,” SLU coach Mike Lucas said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “Some of those were us dropping the football. Some of them were Central Arkansas taking it away from us. The ability to keep playing when you’re digging yourself such a hole like that is difficult. I thought that we continued to play hard.”
“I think our attitude’s fine,” Lucas continued. “As good as can be expected after that type of performance.”
Lucas said the Lions also missed 18 tackles against UCA - something he said won’t be forgiven against Sam Houston State’s offense, which features the option.
“We’ve really got to crank it up and tackle better,” Lucas said on the SLC’s weekly conference call. “When you look at the number of missed tackles we had last week against Central Arkansas, if we do that against (Sam Houston State running back and SLC-leading rusher) Tim Flanders, he’s liable to have 400 yards rushing. He’s a phenomenal back and makes a lot of people miss. We’ve just got to tackle better and get people at the point of attack.”
Roughed up by the run
Central Arkansas gashed the Lions for 586 yards of total offense, including 282 yards rushing. Lucas said some injuries on defense hampered some of the Lions’ defensive game plan against the Bears.
“We thought we would have some guys healthy by the weekend, and then we get out there the first two drives of the game and figure out that they’re not healthy enough to do what we wanted them to do, so we had to adjust,” Lucas said. “And that adjustment that we made opened up some things in the run game. We got out of gaps really, really bad.
“When you’re playing a gap-control defense and you don’t maintain gap integrity, people can rip you. And we did not do a very good job with our linebackers or our defensive line maintaining gap integrity. And when you do that, it doesn’t matter what you call.”
Banged up, too
Lucas said the injury bug hit the Lions after the Texas State game and expanded after last week’s game.
“Right now, (SLU Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine) Cary Berthelot ought to be the one talking instead of me,” Lucas said. “She’s got the harder job this week.
“Our injury report right now is as long as it’s been since I’ve been here in five years,” Lucas continued. “We’ll be hobbling. (Starting right tackle) Paul Roppolo’s getting an MRI (Tuesday) on his knee. That does not look good. Half the starting defense will not be able to practice (Tuesday).
“You know, we sat there, I think we’ve got a good game plan for the option, and we get the injury report, and six of your 11 starters won’t be out there for practice (Tuesday) to time up the option. Will they be ready by Saturday? I don’t know.”
Lucas said redshirt freshman Hunter Craven is in line to start for Roppolo.
SLU kick returner Jordan Wells set the SLC’s single-season record for kick return yardage (1,171 yards) with nine kick returns for 265 yards against UCA. Wells broke the record of former Texas State player Karrington Bush (1,055 yards) set in 2008.
Wells’ yardage total against UCA also broke the league’s single-game kick-return yardage mark (233) set by McNeese State’s Flip Johnson against Northern Iowa in 1986.
“He takes pride in that kickoff return,” Lucas said of Wells. “He’ll throw it up in there hard, and our guys are doing a decent job blocking up front for him. But I wish he didn’t have so many opportunities for kickoff returns.
“It’s a sign that when somebody gets that many opportunities that your defense isn’t stopping very many folks, but Jordan’s doing a good job on that unit.”
Huddle Session set
SLU will host a Huddle Session at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at the Victory Club in Strawberry Stadium. Lucas will go over highlights of the SLU-Central Arkansas game and discuss the SLU-Sam Houston State game.