Southeastern Louisiana coach Ron Roberts said earlier this week that the current state of his team, which includes four losses in its last five games, would qualify as desperate times for the Lions.
Roberts said that such instances call for desperate measures, half-heartedly suggesting the move of 320-pound defensive tackle Ashton Henderson to the backfield as a cure an ailing offense.
“We’re going to get him the rock,” Roberts said facetiously.
The prevailing question, though, is who will Southeastern (4-5, 3-4 SLC) start at quarterback when the Lions visit Abilene Christian (2-7, 2-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday in their final Southland Conference road trip?
Roberts, who rattled off a litany of injuries earlier in the week, was uncertain when starter D’Shaie Landor would return from a two-game absence because of a bruised sternum or if junior-college transfer Justin Alo would get his first start.
Landor, who has completed 57 of 120 passes for 886 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, was able to practice this week, splitting first-team repetitions with Alo, who got more snaps this week than at any other time this season with backup Donovan Isom out with a concussion.
Kody Sutton leads SLU in rushing with 481 yards and three TDs, followed by Julius Maracalin with 413 yards and three scores.
“Everybody’s competing for a starting job,” Alo said. “That’s what you have to do on the practice field to bring out the best in each other.”
Roberts said that regardless of who plays quarterback, the entire offense must function at a higher rate to lessen the burden on Landor or Alo.
A week ago, the Lions were held without an offensive touchdown for the first time in three years and were limited to a season-low 39 rushing yards on 33 attempts.
“I challenged the offensive line, the running backs and wide receivers to help the guy out,” Roberts said. “What are you going to do?
“We haven’t lost the last couple of games because of effort. They’re trying.”
SLU finds an opponent in Abilene Christian in much same position. The Wildcats have lost their past six games after opening SLC play with a 2-0 start.
Abilene has displayed a competitive nature, opening the season with a 34-13 loss at Fresno State, defeating Stephen F. Austin 35-32 and losing at home two weeks ago to SLC champion McNeese State 15-13.
“Going into their place will be a huge challenge,” Roberts said. “They’re going to fight like cats and dogs trying to get themselves a ‘W’ and we will too.”
In the event he gets the starting nod, Alo said he feels a little more comfortable after playing nearly a half last week when Isom was sidelined.
While the results may not have been striking — 6 of 12 completions for 88 yards and two interceptions — Alo said the game action would serve him well this week.
“I think it did a lot for me,” he said. “Just to get a lot of jitters out. It felt good to be out there again. It felt like that’s where I should be, and I’m doing my best to get back on the field.”
Henderson said it’s incumbent on the defense to come to the aid of either quarterback, whether it’s forcing punts or creating good field position or turnovers.
“We have to play as best we can as a group these next two games,” he said.
“If we play to our full potential, the wins will take care of themselves.”