HAMMOND — They may not have started their careers in Southeastern Louisiana jersies, but several transfers found a home in Hammond during the Lions’ season opener against Jacksonville.
The No. 3 Lions handedly defeated the Dolphins 44-3 at home Saturday night behind multiple big plays from players who didn’t start their careers at Southeastern, including former LSU defensive back Micah Eugene who introduced himself to his new school with a fumble recovery for a touchdown just nine minutes into his first game.
Eugene picked up the fumble after defensive back Jordan Batiste, a second-year Tulane transfer, punched the ball out of Jacksonville wide receiver D’Andre Randle’s hands on a screen pass. Eugene recovered the ball at the 3-yard line and casually strolled into the end zone without a Dolphin in sight.
Eugene finished the night with four tackles, while Batiste recorded two and a pass breakup. The defense kept Jacksonville to 222 total yards on the night.
“That’s just the expectation for everybody,” Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said. “Once you step on that field, we expect you to get the job done. Obviously we have some talent and guys who can make big plays.”
Batiste said being a transfer doesn’t mean much to him, the only thing that changes is the name on his chest. He did say he was excited to face his former team in two weeks.
“I can’t lie; I am very excited about it, but I’m just trying to take it game by game,” Batiste said.
Of course, the most important transfer for the Lions on Saturday night was quarterback Bryan Bennett who started his second season with Southeastern after transferring from Oregon.
Bennett lit up the Dolphins defense for 311 yards and two touchdowns on 11 of 16 passing Saturday night, connecting with nine different receivers in the process — four of which were junior college transfers.
“I feel a lot more comfortable, “ Bennett said. “Just having that year of experience under my belt is a great feeling. … Experience is something they can’t take away from you.”
Bennett also ran for another 105 yards — most of which came on an 83-yard, touchdown run at the end of the first quarter — on just seven carries before being pulled with nine minutes to play in the third quarter. The total gives Bennett his fifth 100-yard game of his career, tying him with C.J. Alexander on Southeastern’s all-time list.
Bennett’s numbers could have potentially been even better, but the persistent rain throughout the game hampered play on both sides of the ball all night.
Several receivers dropped clean passes during the game and Bennett threw an ugly interception in the second quarter, which he credited to a slick ball.
It was obviously one of those plays you don’t draw up,” Bennett said with a chuckle. “It was wet out there and we were going at a real fast tempo.
“I got excited, saw a good opportunity to get the ball in a guy’s hands and I think I just sped things up too quick. … The ball was wet and it just slipped out of my hands.”
Bennett and the rest of the Lions will continue their 2014 campaign next week against Southern Utah at home.