HAMMOND — One week after losing its season opener, Southeastern Louisiana University took out its frustrations against an outmanned Savannah State team in its home opener Saturday night.
The Southeastern offense moved up and down its home field at will. The Lion defense was dominating, controlling the line of scrimmage and making clutch tackles. And the special teams got plenty of work on kickoff coverage.
The result was a 63-6 victory at Strawberry Stadium that increased Southeastern’s mark to 9-0 in home openers since it re-instated football in 2003.
“Tonight we played a complete game in all aspects,” Southeastern coach Mike Lucas said.
Southeastern running back Zeke Jones, a 6-foot, 230-pound junior, rushed his way through the heart of the Savannah State defense and up the Lions’ record book on Saturday. Jones had nine carries and rushed for 31 yards and three touchdowns, all of Which came in the first half. The former Springfield High player moved up to fifth on the Lions’ career list with 19 touchdowns.
“It’s a good accomplishment, but all I was worried about was our team getting a ‘W’ and winning,” Jones said.
Southeastern also got solid play from quarterbacks Brian Young and Nathan Stanley. Young completed 15 of 25 passes for 161 yards and rushed for 21 yards and one touchdown on five carries. Stanley completed 11 of 15 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
The game marked the first time Southeastern played a school from the state of Georgia. The Lions play at Georgia Tech in both teams’ season opener next year.
Savannah State sported a look reminiscent of the University of Florida. The Tigers wore orange helmets with white lettering, blue pants and a white jersey with orange numbers.
But sporty-looking Savannah State was outplayed from the start and after a while the game had all of the intensity of a scrimmage, because the Tigers could not keep up.
SLU used a no-huddle offense to take the first possession of the game and drive 56 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. Jones finished the possession with a 1-yard touchdown run, which came when he burrowed his way through the middle of the line.
Savannah countered with a 29-yard field goal by Derek Williams on its second possession of the game to cut the Southeastern lead to 7-3 in the first quarter.
Jones scored his second 1-yard TD of the game when he muscled his way through the middle and into the end zone, which increased Southeastern’s lead to 14-3 with 14:55 remaining in the first half. The run capped an 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive.
Williams hit a 39-yard field goal to make the score 14-6 with 12:07 remaining. It was Savannah State’s last score of the game.
Jones scored his third 1-yard TD run with 8:36 left to give Southeastern a 21-6 lead. Stanley, who entered the game for the first time for starter Young, led the Lions on an 11-play, 64-yard drive.
“We came out rolling,” Jones said. “We had a great week of practice.”
Stanley threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Collins to increase the score to 28-6 with 5:46 remaining. The Lions increased their lead to 35-6 when Young re-entered the game, led the Lions on a four-play, 16-yard scoring drive, and had a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:31 remaining.
Young finished the first-half scoring with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Simmie Yarbrough to make the score 42-6 with 7.7 seconds left in the half.
SLU gained 320 yards on 56 plays in the first half. Young completed 14 of 21 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 21 yards and one touchdown on five carries. Stanley completed six of eight passes for 73 yards and one touchdown.
The Lions also were 10 of 11 on third-down conversions. The team scored touchdowns on six of its seven possessions.
“We feel we’re pretty good on offense,” Lucas said. “We’ve got some weapons.”
Southeastern held Savannah to 79 yards on 29 plays in the opening half.
“We came together this time,” Lions junior defensive end Devan Walker said. “We’ve got some young people who stepped up.”
Southeastern had a stretch where it had scored on six consecutive possessions between the second and third quarters.