HAMMOND — Count Southeastern Louisiana coach Ron Roberts among those eager to see his offense start to operate at a more optimum level.
“We’re into Game 4,” Roberts said. “It’s time for us to start clicking on all cylinders.”
Through the first three weeks of the season, Southeastern, which had an open date last week, has shown flashes of a dominant running game and the ability to throw the ball, but never in the same game.
With Lamar (2-1, 1-0 Southland Conference) bringing in a high-powered offense to Strawberry Stadium at 6 p.m. Thursday for an early conference showdown, No. 19 SLU (2-1, 1-0) realizes the sense of urgency facing its offense that ranks eighth league-wide.
“I’m real anxious,” quarterback D’Shaie Landor said. “We can put points on the board at any given time. We haven’t done that the last two weeks and we’re disappointed. We know that we’re better than that.”
After a run-heavy effort that produced 438 of 453 total yards in a season-opening 34-20 win at Northwestern State, Southeastern registered 235 and 322 yards, respectively, in its last two games without Landor, who sustained a knee injury in the first quarter against Florida Tech.
The Lions rode an opportunistic defense that forced nine turnovers and scored three touchdowns in a 28-17 win over Florida Tech, but lost 35-14 to Ohio despite reserve quarterback Donovan Isom passing for 174 yards and a pair of TDs.
Southeastern has the SLC’s third-best rushing attack (251.0 yards) but ranks 11th passing offense (85.7) and eighth in total offense (336.7).
“The biggest thing is when we get a pass called we need to execute,” Landor said. “I need to get the ball to whoever’s open and in the run game we need to block and run through our gaps. It’s all about execution. When you execute you can move the ball and it keeps the defense off balance.”
“We’ve got playmakers, guys that are back and have made big plays for us,” he said. “It’s going to come down to our focus, execution and doing it on a consistent basis.”
SLU’s defense, which ranks first against the run (75 yards), figures to have a huge say in the game’s outcome as well.
The Lions are ranked third in total defense (383) but have slipped to 10th in pass defense (308.3).
“It’s a bunch of mental errors,” senior cornerback Micah Eugene said. “We’ve got to lock in and tighten up.”
Lamar piled up more than 500 yards in a 49-46 road upset of then No. 3 Sam Houston State, which shared the Southland championship with SLU last year.
The Cardinals feature two of the league’s top players in leading rusher Kade Harrington and wide receiver Reggie Begelton.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Harrington exploded for 230 yards and 2 TDs in his team’s win over Sam Houston and has carried 48 times for 334 yards with 5 TDs. Begelton has a team-high 19 catches for 157 yards and 3 scores.
The Cardinals are second in the SLC in scoring (48.7), rushing offense (255) and total offense (472).
“It’s a huge challenge for us,” Roberts said. “But if we are what we say we are this is the game you want to live for. This is a team you want to show up for. Great players show up for big-time games. We haven’t done that as consistent as I would have liked to.”