HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana coach Frank Scelfo is no stranger hurricanes disrupting football plans.
As an assistant at Tulane in 2005 he saw the Green Wave’s entire season disrupted by Hurricane Katrina when the team had to relocate to Ruston and wound up playing 11 games in 11 different stadiums.
So when the threat of Hurricane Dorian forced the cancellation of the Lions’ game against Bethune-Cookman Saturday in Daytona Beach, Florida, he took it in stride.
“It’s hard to second-guess anybody,” Scelfo said Tuesday, a day after officials from the two schools agreed that uncertain conditions made the cancellation the best way to go. “I’m not sure what all is going on down there, but obviously whatever is best for the city of Daytona and Bethune-Cookman we’ve got to go along with it.
“’I’ve been through all this with Katrina, Rita and a bunch of others, so you learn to deal with it. We’ll get one in someday.”
That would be — weather permitting — on Sept. 14 at Ole Miss.
In the meantime, SLU, whose 35-16 opening-game victory against Jacksonville State propelled them to No. 23 in the FCS rankings, is using the extra week off its advantage.
That has meant working on fundamentals in practice, allowing backups to get reps they weren’t receiving in the final two weeks of preseason camp, and, for the staff, an extra night of recruiting Friday following a morning practice.
“We’re going to get out, make some contacts and watch some guys we’re interested in play,” Scelfo said. “Sometimes when you win one like we did, it does more good than you think.
“The high school coaches in Louisiana know we’ll recruiting this state hot and heavy and that we’ll be there to see them.
The players will get Saturday off before beginning preparations for Ole Miss on Sunday.
“Everybody’s disappointed because you’re always looking forward to that next game,” Scelfo said. “Then one of those 12 games is taken away from you.
“But unless you’ve been in this situation, you have no idea what it’s like to have your team dealing with a hurricane.”
QB Virgil OK
Even if the Bethune-Cookman game were still on, quarterback Chason Virgil would be good to go.
That didn’t look like it would be the case when he suffered an injury to his left (nonthrowing) shoulder in the third quarter of the Jacksonville State game, spending several minutes inside the trainer’s tent before watching the rest of the game from the sideline.
“I don’t like being in that tent,” Virgil said. “Everybody’s looking in there to see if you’re all right and all you want to do is get back on the field.
“I was a little dinged was all. I’ve been rehabbing a lot and loosening up real well.”
Up and over
Horizontally, it only covered five yards.
But vertically, it had to be the tallest in SLU history — 6-foot-7 backup quarterback Cole Kelly to 6-5 tight end Bransen Schwebel for the Lions’ second touchdown against Jacksonville State.
In a maneuver made famous by Tim Tebow at Florida (but without the jump), Kelly took the shotgun snap, took one step forward and then lobbed the ball over Gamecocks’ defensive front to Schwebel who was uncovered in the middle of the end zone.
“We’d set it up nice with the run,” Schwebel said. “That sort of faked them out.
“All I had to do was slip behind the defense, wait for Cole to do his thing and hope I could catch the ball.”
The play had just been installed the week of the game by offensive coordinator Greg Stevens. But it wasn’t the first time Kelly had executed the play.
Last year at Arkansas he’d connected on a 3-yard TD pass against Alabama. Of course, since the Razorbacks would lose that game, 65-31 and Kelly would transfer after the season, it was pretty much forgotten — until Saturday.
“I think we surprised them,” Kelly said. “It’s really pretty easy when you do that.
“It was really fun to pull it off.”
Reversal of fortune
SLU was leading 21-7 early in the third quarter, but things looked about go south when Virgil was injured and fumbled on the same play, giving Jacksonville State the ball at the SLU 44.
But two plays later Ferlando Jordan intercepted Zerrick Cooper and went 65 yards for a pick-six that restored momentum and put the Lions in command for good.
“We all have adversity,” Scelfo said. “It’s how your team reacts that matters.
“You didn’t see people getting mad or blaming each other. You saw a team rise to the occasion to turn it back around. I don’t know if that would have happened last year.”
SLU was the most-penalized team in the Southland Conference last year at 90.2 yards-per-game. But in the opener the drew only four calls for 35 yards, including an unusual one for a face mask on a kickoff.