HAMMOND — The only thing better for Southeastern Louisiana after making the FCS playoffs despite losing to rival Nicholls State in a de facto Southland Conference championship game?
How about playing into December following last Saturday’s 45-44 opening-round thriller against Villanova?
The Lions (8-4) will play at No. 6 national seed Montana on Saturday, seeking to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in the program’s history.
That made for a happy Monday on the SLU campus.
“My teacher said, ‘You kinda scared me; but I’m proud of ya’ll,’” said senior tackle Pat Allen. “Everybody else was saying ‘Great game.’ "
“It was like being back in high school. This is the best time of the year.”
Montana (9-3) is making its first playoff appearance since 2015 after being a postseason mainstay for more than two decades before that.
“You look back at their history,” SLU coach Frank Scelfo said. “Great fan base and a winning tradition that goes way back.
“It’s going to be hard to win there. But I have no doubt about our guys being ready to play.”
Montana is in the playoffs for the 24th time. The Grizzlies have won two national championships, the last in 2001. If Villanova had beaten SLU, that would have created a rematch of the 2009 FCS title game which the Wildcats won, 23-21. This is the first meeting between SLU and Montana, but the Grizzlies are 7-4 against other Louisiana schools. The last playoff game against a Louisiana school was a 31-6 victory against McNeese State in 2006.
Montana coach Bobby Hauck is that rare college coach who returns to a school where he has been in charge before.
After guiding the Grizzlies to seven straight Big Sky Conference titles from 2003-2009, Hauck departed for UNLV where success was much harder to find. In fact, the Rebels were only 15-49 in his five seasons there, seven of the victories coming in 2013 when they made the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Hauck then spent three years as offensive coordinator at San Diego State before returning to his alma mater in 2018.
Montana had been through three coaches in eight years, in part because of a player-involved rape case that resulted in NCAA sanctions against the Grizzlies.
Hauck went 6-5 in his first season back and this year Montana is 9-3, although the Grizzlies were routed by Montana State in their regular season finale, 48-14, costing them a share of the conference title.
No one took SLU’s 28-27 loss to Nicholls State harder than sophomore kicker Bryce Broussard, whose missed extra point was the difference in the game.
That was because Broussard spent the 2018 season at Nicholls, although did not see any action.
Against Villanova Broussard had a bigger kick to make — an extra point which would give the Lions the winning edge in their 45-44 victory. The kick was tipped, but somehow knuckled through the uprights.
“I knew if I had to have another kick to make to win a game for us,” said Broussard, who prepped at Central. “My coach believed in me and my teammates believed in me.
“Things couldn’t be better right now.”
The PAT was Broussard’s sixth in six attempts Saturday and he also had a 25-yard field goal.
Scelfo, who had indicated the Lions might go for two points every time if he faltered during practice last week, had nothing but praise for Broussard, a walk-on who did not arrive at SLU until after preseason drills had begun in August.
“Oh man, how about that?” he said. “I don’t know of anybody who’s been beat up more than Bryce.
“To do that — he was just money all game line. He was so excited after that game — he wanted to chest bump me. That was awesome.”
He’s No. 3
Chasson Virgil’s 474 passing yards against Villanova broke the hold former SLU quarterback Martin Hankins had on the top of the school single-game list. Before Saturday, Hankins was Nos. 1-6, headed by his 588-yard day against Arkansas-Monticello in 2004. That was the season-opener and Hankins would top 400 five more times that year. No other SLU quarterback had ever topped 400 yards before Saturday. Virgil’s 474 still leaves Hankins with the top two marks.
“Sometimes you know when a quarterback has it,” Scelfo said. “And Chasson’s a dude who has it.
“Villanova gave us a lot of things to confuse us, but Chasson’s eyes — he was just on everything.”
If the Lions win, they likely face another trip out west for the quarterfinals, this time to face third-seeded Weber State. Weber State (9-3) plays host to Kennesaw State on Saturday. Kennesaw State was a 28-21 winner at Wofford in its first-round game, but like SLU has to travel in the second round to play a national seed.
Weber State, which tied Sacramento State for the Big Sky Conference championship, had a first-round bye and would stay at home with a victory.
But should Kennesaw win, the game would be the site of the school that put in the highest initial bid to host a first-round game, which SLU athletic director Jay Artigues said would likely be the Lions.