HAMMOND - If Southeastern Louisiana University football coach Mike Lucas was worried about his team’s mindset coming off last week’s 52-6 loss at Southern Miss, Lucas said the Lions aren’t giving him any cause for concern.

“I was kind of really concerned about that until I got in the team meeting Sunday,” Lucas said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “And I think it was a very good mentality that, ?Hey, these (first) three games are behind us, you know, we got this part of this schedule done, and now let’s get focused in.’ If you were to have sat down with me in June and said, you know, ?Where do you want to be going in the McNeese game?’ Yeah, we’d like to be 2-1, but realistically, looking at the schedule with two FBS opponents, realistically, you’re probably going to be 1-2.

“So, are we where we expected to be? Probably. But now is when we have to crank it up and get going for real,” Lucas continued.

The Lions (1-2) enter Saturday’s 7 p.m. Southland Conference opener at McNeese State (1-1) with a pair of losses to Football Bowl Subdivision teams in Tulane and Southern Miss and a win over Savannah State. But Lucas said one of his staff’s main challenges this week is getting a young team ready for the rigors of SLC play.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who have never played a Southland Conference football game,” Lucas said. “We’ve got to try to get those guys to understand that the tempo, the pressure - everything that goes along with conference games - is going to increase this week. And going to play at the toughest place in the league to play in Lake Charles, so we’ve got to have a good week of practice.”

Bring the noise

The Lions were penalized 13 times for 90 yards against Southern Miss, including seven false-start flags, which Lucas chalked up to a boisterous M.M. Roberts Stadium crowd.

“Their fans were coached up really well when to be loud when we were at the line of scrimmage, and there were penalties because we couldn’t hear the cadence,” Lucas said.

“You’re not happy with 13 penalties at all, but it’s a different cause-effect,” Lucas said. “We’ve got to be able to handle that kind of crowd noise. In The Hole this week, I doubt if it will be as loud as it was at The Rock, but it will be loud, and we’ve got to address that.”

Injury bug

Southeastern played without three starters - running back Zeke Jones, defensive tackle Devin Boutwell (stinger) and cornerback Todd Washington (ankle) - against Southern Miss, but Lucas expects them back this week.

“Zeke had a staph infection in his finger, and his finger was severely swollen to the point where he couldn’t bend his finger and was in a lot of pain. He could have played (Monday), if we would have played (Monday).

“If it was a conference game, we probably could have played Todd,” Lucas continued. “He was close to being ready, but was it worth taking the chance? And the same thing with Devin Boutwell. Devin had a stinger, a little discomfort in his neck and shoulder where he wasn’t 100 percent. We knew the size and the strength of those (Southern Miss) offensive linemen, and we’d much rather have him for the McNeese game. So we expect both of those guys to be ready this week.”