HAMMOND — The Southeastern Louisiana football team can’t wait to get back on the field.
The Lions have been antsy to suit up again since the final seconds ticked away during their 70-0 loss at the hands of Sam Houston State this past weekend in a game SLU coach Ron Roberts described as “an emotional beat down.”
“Those are games you kind of want to forget as soon as possible,” Roberts said. “You’ve got to learn the lessons from it. You’ve got to get something out of it, but you want to move forward as soon as possible. I think we’re looking forward to just getting on the field again.”
This week’s competition doesn’t get much easier, as SLU (3-6, 3-2) takes on a Stephen F. Austin squad that sits third in the Southland Conference with an identical 3-2 record as the Lions, but statistically top several offensive categories.
The Lumberjacks (4-5) lead the SLC in pass offense (416 yards per game) and total offense (513.4 yards per game) and sit third in scoring offense, averaging 34.9 points per game.
SFA has alternated wins and losses in each of the past six weeks and is coming off a 40-26 win against Lamar.
“They’re playing great. That’s just football,” Roberts said. “I think it’s important that we start out fast. I think it’s important that we come out there in the first quarter, and we’ve got to slow them down and keep them off rhythm. We can’t let them come out and put 14 points on the board in the first quarter. We can’t do that.”
Not many teams have much luck slowing down the Lumberjacks, who are powered by the dominant air attack. SFA wideouts Cordell Roberson and D.J. Ward sit No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the conference in receiving yards per game, and four Lumberjacks crack the top 10 in the SLC.
“They’re diving for catches, they’re making great catches in traffic, getting smacked catching the ball,” Roberts said. “I’ve been real impressed with their receiving corps. That’s what’s really making their ball club go. You name it, they’re doing it.”
SLU isn’t ready to roll over just yet. SFA is prone to turning the ball over, which is something Roberts hopes SLU can capitalize on Saturday. Lumberjacks junior quarterback Brady Attaway has thrown for 3,285 yards this season — already a career-high for him — but does have 18 interceptions.
The Lions also boast the third best pass defense in the SLC, giving up 208.7 yards per game.
“To me, they kind of smother you,” SFA coach J.C. Harper said. “Defensively, they make you earn what you’re going to get. It’s physical. So we’re really going to have to match that and play physical and get off man routes and fight for that. It’s not going to be easy.”
Saturday marks the final home game of the season for the Lions as well as the final stand at Strawberry Stadium for 16 seniors. If the Lions win out, they’ll post a 5-2 record in conference play, marking the best finish in SLC history for SLU.
“We really want to win it bad,” said senior linebacker Tay Alford. “We want to win it for everybody, not just the seniors, but for the offseason, so they can go have a great offseason when the seniors leave. We’re looking forward to it, but we want to win it though. The relationships I’ve built around the school, with the team and with the coaches — even though it’s been a short time — it’s going to last forever”
“We know they’re going to win rings here. It’ll feel real to know we started the dynasty for the Southeastern Lions.”