HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana University football coach Mike Lucas found his own way to sum up his team’s performance against Sam Houston State, ranked No. 3 in The Sports Network’s poll and the No. 4 in the Football Championship Subdivision Coaches poll, after the Lions dropped a 38-9 decision to the Bearkats last week.
“Can you feel encouragement and frustration all at the same time?” Lucas asked Tuesday during his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “You know, you’re encouraged by some of the things that you see, but you’re frustrated that you don’t see them consistently. We’ve got some guys that are playing really, really hard and really playing well, but we have to put all those pieces together.”
Lucas was pleased with SLU’s effort against Sam Houston running back Tim Flanders, who leads the Southland Conference in rushing at 95.1 yards per game. SLU limited Flanders to 45 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but Bearkats running back Richard Sincere had nine carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
“Tim Flanders may be the best running back in FCS in the country,” Lucas said. “He’s way above everybody in our league in yards per game rushing, and we took him out of the ball game. I mean, they stopped giving it to him.”
On the flip side, Lucas lamented the Lions’ missed opportunities on offense and special teams against the Bearkats. SLU quarterbacks Brian Young and Nathan Stanley combined to go 22-of-56 for 210 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against Sam Houston (9-0, 6-0).
“I think we accomplished what we set out to accomplish,” Lucas said. “We had some open receivers, and we knew there were going to be times when we were going to be covered and we’d just have to throw the ball away. But when we had open people, I don’t think we delivered the football the way that we have in previous ballgames. If we would have been consistent, I think we had a chance.”
The Lions (2-7, 0-5) travel to face Stephen F. Austin (4-5, 3-2), which is riding a three-game win streak, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas.
SLU running back Jordan Wells is second in the SLC in kick return average (26.8 yards per game) and has 1,311 kick return yards this season, but Lucas said that hasn’t translated into more playing time for the redshirt freshman on offense.
“Jordan Wells will get more playing time when he learns his protection schemes in protecting blitzes on the quarterback,” Lucas said. “If all we had to do was turn around and hand him the ball, he would be our starting tailback, no doubt.
“He still is not good in his protection,” Lucas continued. “And we can’t get to the point where, ‘OK, every time (No.) 28 (Wells) is in the game, we’re running the football, and every time (No.) 28 is out of the game, we’re throwing the football.’ We can’t do that. He has to become a complete player. He’s getting better at that, but he’s not yet at the point in time where we as a staff are ready to put him out there and a blitzing linebacker run past him when he’s not in the right spot and hit our quarterback in the mouth. We’re not going to do that.”
Taking a toll
Lucas said the physical nature of both the Texas State and Sam Houston State games have left the Lions with several notable injuries.
Running back Sam Fairley (separated shoulder) and receiver Carl Pearson (head injury) will miss Saturday’s game.
“This week (at running back), it’s going to be LaTruan Weary and Michael Chaney and Jordan Wells, and it might be me if I can get a helmet to fit,” Lucas said. “We’ll see as the week of practice goes on.
“After the game, (Pearson) didn’t know what state he was in, so he won’t travel and may not be ready for Nicholls,” Lucas continued. “He’s not even to the point where he can start to take the concussion test.”
Lucas also said starting right tackle Paul Roppolo (knee) is done for the season.
“They did an MRI,” Lucas said of Roppolo’s injury. “There was no meniscus damage, but he’s got a second-degree MCL sprain.”
SFA’s Louisiana players
Stephen F. Austin’s roster features three players with ties to the area in former Parkview Baptist standout Devin Ducote at linebacker, former CHEF and Baton Rouge Christian Patriots quarterback Stevie Douglas and receiver Ryan Gambel of St. Thomas Aquinas-Hammond. SFA lists Douglas’ high school as Douglas Academy.