HAMMOND - It’s another week and another tough challenge for the Southeastern Louisiana University football team.
This time it’s in the form of Sam Houston State, which is ranked No. 4 The Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Poll and No. 5 in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Kickoff for SLU’s homecoming game is 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium.
Sam Houston (8-0, 5-0) ranks first in the Southland Conference in scoring offense (39.6 points per game) and is coming off a 66-0 win over Lamar.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a team be this good on both sides of the ball in a long time,” SLU coach Mike Lucas said of the Bearkats. “They can be dominating on both sides.”
But Sam Houston coach Willie Fritz said his team won’t be overlooking the Lions, who are coming off a 55-29 loss to Central Arkansas.
“Our goal each and every week is to be 1-0, and we talk to our guys about that,” Fritz said. “After we got done reviewing the (Lamar) game tape, we kind of flushed that down the toilet and went on to the next deal. We’re not concerned about the past. We’re concerned about the upcoming opponent.”
The Bearkats offense, which features the option, is paced by the running back tandem of Tim Flanders and Richard Sincere. Flanders leads the SLC in rushing (165 carries, 811 yards, 16 TDs), while Sincere is third (64-465, 6 TDs).
Sam Houston quarterback Brian Bell is seventh in the SLC in passing average per game (158 ypg, while going 75-for-111 for 1,106 yards, 10 TDs and no interceptions). His top targets are Torrance Williams (19 receptions, 291 yards, 2 TDs), Flanders (19-288) and Sincere (15-206, 1 TD).
“Offensively, they’re very good with what they do in the option game,” Lucas said. “You know, they’ll use Brian Bell at quarterback, but then when they really want to go fast-paced option, they’ll put Richard Sincere in at wide receiver, at wildcat, quarterback, and he can absolutely fly.”
“Tim Flanders is the best running back in the league,” Lucas continued. “You can’t tackle him. You can’t get him down, and they give you a lot of different formation combinations, motions, different ways to run the option (and) make it very difficult.”
The Bearkats, who are first in the SLC in turnover margin (plus-21) with four turnovers on the season, will face an SLU unit ranked last in the SLC in total defense (445.8 ypg.).
SLU is led by linebackers Ricky Irvin (67 tackles), Tay Alford (63 tackles) and safety Tyler Stoddard (56 tackles).
Southeastern (2-6, 0-4) is first in the SLC in total offense (433.5 ypg), behind quarterback Brian Young (170-293-12 interceptions, 2,245 yards, 11 TDs). SLU running back Sam Fairley (102-363, 3 TDs) in seventh in the SLC in rushing, while receivers Brandon Collins (50-684, 5 TDs), Kory Theodore (40-555, 2 TDs) and Simmie Yarborough (40-541, 3 TDs) rank first, fourth and fifth, respectively, in receiving yards per game.
“They’re very explosive,” Fritz said of the Lions. “They’ve got some guys who can turn a 5-yard catch into a 50-yard gain, 50-yard touchdown. You just look at the numbers to understand how dangerous they are.”
The Bearkats are first in the SLC in total defense (259.8 ypg.), led by defensive back Darnell Taylor (70 tackles).
“Our numbers offensively are good right now in the conference and nationally, but that will get challenged this week,” Lucas said. “We’ve got to find a way to protect the quarterback and try to get open with their receiver crew against their defensive backs.”
But Lucas knows that will be a challenge against the Bearkats, who have former Northwestern State coach Scott Stoker as their defensive coordinator.
“They’re going to play press man,” Lucas said. “They don’t care. They’re going to press everybody across the line and bring everybody else in multiple combinations and say ?We’re going to get to you before you can get open.’
“I think the key is our receivers getting open against the man coverage and Brian Young throwing accurate footballs.”