HAMMOND — This was the time last year when Southeastern Louisiana first displayed the type of resolve that would later define it as a champion.
The Lions were coming off consecutive road losses to TCU and South Dakota State, a stretch that threatened to derail their season.
Instead of imploding, Southeastern went back on the road and came away with a three-point win over Samford, a result that appeared to serve as the catalyst in a nine-game winning streak to close out the regular season.
Not only did the Lions secure the Southland Conference championship, but won a home playoff game before succumbing to New Hampshire 20-17 a week later in the FCS quarterfinals.
No. 4 SLU (2-1) finds itself in much the same situation, having to come off a loss — 35-20 at Tulane — heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Southeast Missouri (1-2) with the start of conference play looming next week.
“I want to see how we do respond,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said. “That’s the test of it. It won’t be the first time we’re going to see adversity. Somebody’s going to get up on you and get the better of you in the first half. That’s going to happen, and you have to come back. That’s just the nature of the game.”
Following SLU’s narrow win over Samford, the Lions caught fire in mowing down SLC opponents to the tune of 28 points per game.
That’s the level of play the Lions look to recapture when they face an Ohio Valley Conference team that opened the season with a 77-0 win over Missouri Baptist but has lost back-to-back games to Kansas (34-28) and Southern Illinois (50-23).
“Whether it’s Tulane or anyone else, it’s about us getting better week in and week out,” SLU quarterback Bryan Bennett said. “Every game and every opportunity we get to test ourselves is a good thing and a beneficial thing.”
SLU, which averaged 43 points and 520 yards, was limited two touchdowns and a pair of Ryan Adams field goals. The Lions wound up 271 total yards with 167 of those coming after halftime when they closed the gap to 28-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Bennett was 16-of-34 passing for 213 yards with a pair of interceptions and a touchdown. He was sacked three times, resulting in minus-10 yards rushing.
“We don’t have to change what we do,” said Bennett, who has passed for 748 yards (40 of 75) with five TDs and four interceptions. “We have to look at those things and how close — one block, one decision — you are. It’s there, and you know what to do, and that comes with practice. We have to focus on things we may have struggled with and grow from them.”
SLU’s defense is heeding much of the same advice after yielding season highs in points and total yards (360). Penalties and the inability to get off the field on third downs helped contribute to the Green Wave’s 28-point first half.
“That’s a lot of points,” said SLU safety Tyler Stoddard, the team’s co-leader in tackles at 23. “We were upset with that defensively, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. All we can control is coming out and practicing hard this week and try and hold Southeast Missouri to a goose egg or as few points as possible.”
For a veteran team with through-the-roof expectations, Roberts expected a good week of preparations to be all the remedy his team needed.
“It was a heartbreaking loss,” Roberts said. “It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of our season. It’s not going to define us. It’s not going to stop us from achieving what our goals are.
“We have to find out how good we want to be.”