HAMMOND - Don’t get Southeastern Louisiana University football coach Mike Lucas wrong - he’d like a win. But in the wake of the Lions’ 28-20 loss to Stephen F. Austin last week, Lucas said he was pleased with the team’s effort.
“We played hard Saturday night,” Lucas said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “I was very, very proud of our football team and the effort that they gave. We were in it right until the end.”
The Lions (2-8, 0-6 Southland Conference) host Nicholls State (1-9, 0-6) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Strawberry Stadium in the season finale for both teams. The game will be broadcast on CST and ESPN3.
Lucas praised SLU’s defensive effort against the Lumberjacks after the Lions gave up 474 yards of total offense and forced SFA quarterback Brady Attaway into four interceptions.
“Defensively, I thought I was very proud of our coaching staff,” Lucas said. “We had a very good plan for the Air Raid. To go from playing Sam Houston and the option stuff, and then you go and get ready for the Air Raid, we really had to work hard to get that done. We had a good plan and good execution. To get four interceptions against Attaway was big, because he hadn’t been throwing many interceptions.
“The play of (SLU cornerback) Robert Alford was outstanding,” Lucas continued. “We basically locked him in man coverage on their top receiver, Cordell Roberson, all night long, and it was a battle. You watch it on video, they really got after each other, Robert’s jersey was all torn up after the game. There was a lot of grabbing and pulling and tugging going on.”
Lucas, however, lamented the Lions’ red-zone struggles on offense against the Lumberjacks. SLU went 3-for-4 in those opportunities with a 1-yard touchdown run from Zeke Jones and a pair of Seth Sebastian field goals of 33 and 32 yards. SLU turned the ball over on downs at the SFA 8 with 2:04 to play on its other red-zone opportunity.
“That was very, very frustrating to play that well, that hard and to again, not get a victory on the road,” Lucas said.
The Lions started six defensive backs in an effort to slow Stephen F. Austin’s Air Raid offense with Alford and T’Darryl Grays at the corners; and Keiron Jones, Kevin Roberts, Tyler Stoddard and Marice Sutton at safeties.
“We basically played three in the inside gaps, where if they were going to run the football, that the ball would bounce outside to where our defensive backs were alignmentwise, and I thought that scheme worked very well,” Lucas said.
Attaway went 25-for-52 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions against the Lions.
“When was the last time you saw a Stephen F. quarterback throw for under 50 percent and four picks? We did a good job mixing the coverages and making him guess where to go with the football, and we caught the ball well when they threw it to us,” Lucas said. “We dropped a couple others.”
The Lions’ interceptions were by Sutton, Stoddard, defensive end Frank Bryant and Alford.
Jones, a former Springfield standout who hadn’t played since Oct. 1 against Lamar while battling a staph infection, returned to rush for 79 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries off the bench against SFA. LaTruan Weary (10 carries, 36 yards) started at running back for the Lions against SFA, and Sam Fairley (separated shoulder) didn’t make the trip to Nacogdoches, Texas.
“He definitely had fresh legs,” Lucas said of Jones. “You could tell that he was running with a little spring in his step compared to everybody else out there. You know, he hadn’t played in four or five weeks. The doctor had originally told us that he would be done for the season, and he went back to the doctor last week. He begged the doctor, and the doctor said, ?you can’t hurt it,’ so they wrapped it up and put the glove on, and as long as we were convinced that he could hold a football without fumbling it ...
“When we gave Zeke the opportunity, he ran hard - made a couple really nice runs, made them miss some tackles,” Lucas continued. “He’ll play again this week.”