HAMMOND — For all the prolific numbers Southeastern Louisiana’s fast-paced offense can accumulate, the Lions’ latest method of victory seemed to really appeal to their coach.
Just when it appeared Lamar may catch Southeastern late in the third quarter of last week’s Southland Conference game, the Lions unleashed a torrid rushing attack to beat the Cardinals across the finish line.
Southeastern wound up rushing for a school-record 484 yards on 60 carries and equaled another school mark with seven rushing touchdowns in a 61-34 road victory.
“We played a lot of guys early, and when it started to rain in the second half, we committed to running the football and staying with it,” SLU coach Ron Roberts said at his weekly media luncheon Tuesday. “Our guys did a good job of executing the plays, getting after them and being physical up front and dominating the line of scrimmage against a very good defense.”
No. 8 Southeastern (5-2, 3-0) extended its win streak to three games and returns to Strawberry Stadium for a 7 p.m. homecoming kickoff Saturday against Central Arkansas (4-3, 3-0) in a Southland showdown.
“When you look at all those things such as homecoming, 3-0 records and a big conference game, you can get caught up in all those distractions,” Southeastern senior safety Tyler Stoddard said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time and prepare the right way and just know that we’re really playing against ourselves.”
Lamar pulled to within 34-27 on a return of a Bryan Bennett interception with just under two minutes left in third quarter.
Bennett responded with a five-play, 71-yard drive, connecting with Jarrell Johnson for a 16-yard touchdown on the second play of the fourth quarter to spark a 27-point avalanche.
“We dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the second half,” Roberts said. “I thought we came out the second half, popped a couple of runs and sprung the game open. It was a total team effort to set a new school record for rushing yards.”
Southeastern distanced itself over the next three minutes when wide receiver Byron Johnson of Zachary provided a heads-up play, recovering Bennett’s fumble at the end of a 12-yard run for a touchdown.
Junior defensive back Reggie Lesuer created a turnover on the ensuing kickoff, forcing a fumble which Denzel Thompson recovered and returned to Lamar’s 12-yard line, setting up Kody Sutton’s 3-yard TD run.
The Lions capped their explosive final quarter on Marquis Hayes’ 57-yard scoring dash with 6:13 left for a 61-27 advantage.
Bennett led the Lions’ record-setting outing with 17 carries for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Sutton added 86 yards on 18 attempts and Xavier Roberson had 84 yards and a TD on five rushes.
“I think we challenged ourselves on the offensive line about how hard could we play,” Roberts said. “We played really hard the first half. I think it wore them down and continued it to the second half.”
Roberts also praised his defense, which limited Lamar to 69 yards on the ground in 31 attempts.
Junior reserve linebacker Hebert Harris contributed a career-best 10 tackles for a unit that compiled five sacks led by linebackers Isiah Corbett and Drew Misita and defensive lineman Aaron Price.
“It was a good win to go on the road and win in the fashion we did and playing physical,” Roberts said. “Its sets up a huge game versus UCA. That’s one thing we know about winning; the more you win, the bigger the games get. We’ve been down this road before, so we understand what’s in front of us.”
SLU extended its school-record conference win streak to 12 dating to the end of the 2012 season ... The Lions’ 27-point margin of victory against Lamar tied the fourth-largest in school history in conference play. ... Central Arkansas, which opened with a 42-35 loss at Texas Tech, has won its last three games. The Bears are coached by former Gulf Coast (Miss.) Community College coach Steve Campbell.