HAMMOND - Southeastern Louisiana University football coach Mike Lucas knows the Lions have a challenge in facing Central Arkansas. But that’s just part of the equation heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Estes Stadium in Conway, Ark.
“We’ve got several things this week that we’ve got to fight,” Lucas said. “We’ve got to fight the (bus) trip (of 400-plus miles). We’ve got to battle the (purple and gray) turf. We’ve got to battle the homecoming, then on top of that, a good football team.”
The Lions (2-5, 0-3 Southland Conference) are coming off a 38-28 win over Texas State and are third in the conference in scoring offense (31.7 points per game) and first in total offense (430.1 yards per game).
SLU is paced by quarterback Brian Young (139-246-8, 1,836 yards, 8 TDs), running backs Sam Fairley (90 carries, 337 yards 3 TDs) and LaTruan Weary (37-175, 4 TDs) and receivers Brandon Collins (39-544, 5 TDs), Kory Theodore (35-493, TD) and Simmie Yarborough (34-415, 2 TDs).
“They petrify me every year,” UCA coach Clint Conque said of the Lions.
“They’re a huge challenge because they have vertical threats, they have a nice intermediate passing game and then of course last week, their run game really came alive as well, so we’ll have our hands full here in Conway.”
Since 2007, the outcome of games between the teams has been decided by a total of 18 points.
SLU ranks seventh in the SLC in total defense (425.7 ypg) and is last in the league in turnover margin (minus-10). The Lions are led by linebackers Tay Alford (57 tackles), Ricky Irvin (55 tackles) and safety Tyler Stoddard (47 tackles).
“You’ve got to win one-on-one matchups, and then you’ve got to be able to bump, twist and pick up blitzes,” Conque said. “They’re going to get you some times, I don’t care how well you block it. They create a lot of problems.”
The Lions will tangle with a UCA team which ranks sixth in the SLC in total offense (372.8 ypg.). The Bears (5-3, 4-1) are led by quarterback Nathan Dick (136-207-4, 1,718 yards, 17 TDs), running backs Jackie Hinton (75-343, 3 TDs) and Anthony Blackmon (50-209, TD) and receivers Jesse Grandy (31-484, 5 TDs) and Dominique Croom (29-405, 5 TDs).
“Their quarterback makes them go,” Lucas said.
“We’ve got to do some things to try to keep him off balance, don’t let him get in a groove and we’re going to have to play well in the back end because I really think they’ve upgraded their receiver position,” Lucas said. “I think they’re probably better at receiver right now than we have seen in the past.”
UCA is last in the SLC in total defense (443.4 ypg.), behind linebacker Seth Allison (70 tackles, two sacks) and safety Jestin Love (51 tackles, four interceptions).
Lucas said the Bears are doing something the Lions have struggled with on defense this season.
“They have had five takeaways for touchdowns - interceptions or fumble recoveries,” Lucas said. “Statistics show that if you score defensively, you’re going to win 80 percent of those games.
“So I think that’s something that they’ve been doing that we haven’t been doing.”