HAMMOND - There’s still much for Southeastern Louisiana University’s football team to work on coming out of last week’s 47-33 season-opening loss to Tulane. But SLU coach Mike Lucas is hoping the Lions can iron out some kinks in Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener against Savannah State at Strawberry Stadium.
“I thought it was a game of extremes,” Lucas said of the Tulane game on Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “We played extremely well on offense - better than what I anticipated we would. We played beyond poor on defense. There were areas of our special teams, our return units, that played very well, but then our coverage units played very poorly. So we have a lot of work to do, and you usually don’t find those things out until you play somebody.”
SLU put up 419 yards of total offense against the Green Wave, and redshirt freshman Jordan Wells had 224 yards on kickoff returns to earn Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
On the flip side, the Lions surrendered 393 yards of total offense and 275 yards on punt and kickoff returns as Tulane’s Robert Kelley had a school-record 213 kickoff return yards.
“On special teams, the kickoff unit, we gave up a ton of yards on our kickoff coverage, and when I watched the video Sunday, I thought it would make me sick, but it really kind of excited me because we played hard and were much more athletic on that unit than we’ve ever been, but we didn’t play very intelligently,” Lucas said. “We had a bunch of freshmen on there, and we’re running down the field and getting in the wrong lanes, and they didn’t understand or couldn’t comprehend the importance of staying in their lane. So we’ve got good video to coach off of and get those kind of things corrected.”
Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, and Lucas is looking for better play from safeties Kevin Roberts and Marice Sutton - both of whom made their first starts for SLU against the Green Wave.
“What, they had 62 snaps, I think we misaligned 40 times, so it definitely told us what we need to do from here on with those guys,” Lucas said. “Kevin and Mo played hard. They played physical.”
Kickoff for the Tulane game was moved up two hours to 12:30 p.m. because of Tropical Storm Lee, and Lucas said the Lions’ trip out of Hammond was delayed roughly an hour after the team loaded the bus because SLU President John Crain had concerns about the team traveling to New Orleans. Southeastern’s band and cheerleaders did not make the trip.
“We went about 50 miles an hour all the way down on the bus, and the wind was blowing the bus, so I can understand where Dr. Crain’s concerns were,” Lucas said.
“By no means am I saying that had anything to do with the game, but it was different,” Lucas said. “That was the first time I’ve ever had to go through anything like that.”
Staying with two QBs
Lucas said the Lions will play quarterbacks Brian Young and Nathan Stanley against Savannah State after Young went 20-of-35 for 249 yards and an interception while taking the majority of the snaps against Tulane. Stanley was 5-of-9 for 46 yards.
“We’ll do it again this week,” Lucas said. “We don’t feel like we gave Nathan a fair shot. Brian was playing so well, you don’t want to take him out. He had a hot hand. When we put Nate in, you could tell that they dialed up some things.”
Slow it down
Lucas said the Lions’ new up-tempo offense produced 89 snaps, not counting penalty plays, against the Green Wave.
“That’s a huge number,” Lucas said. “We were going so fast at times, Tulane wasn’t lined up when we snapped the ball, and it created problems for our offensive line because wherever that defensive lineman, he’s running over here to get lined up, and the ball’s snapped and he ends up on the wrong side of the protection, and we kind of got caught by surprise because we were going too fast.”