Information provided by SLU Athletics
HAMMOND, LA - The No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana football team jumped out to a 27-0 first quarter lead and never looked back on the way to a 44-3 victory over Jacksonville in the season opener for both teams Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium.
The defending Southland Conference champion Lions (1-0) were never tested, winning their season opener for the second straight season and posting its 11th win in its last 12 home openers. Jacksonville, a member of the Pioneer Football League, lost to Southeastern for the fourth time in as many meetings.
Southeastern senior quarterback Bryan Bennett, a Walter Payton Award candidate, led a Lion offensive attack that racked up 564 total yards. In just over a half of action, Bennett threw for 311 yards and two scores, while also running for a game-high 93 yards – including a career-long 83-yard touchdown run.
Bennett and sophomore quarterback D'Shaie Landor combined to complete 13 of 20 passes, spreading receptions to nine different receivers. Junior Xavier Roberson (3-22), junior Jeff Smiley (2-38) and senior Devante Scott (2-37) were the only Lions with multiple catches, while juniors Rasheed Harrell and Dylan Bossier each caught long touchdowns.
Southeastern also spread the ball around in its rushing attack, as 11 different Lions accounted for the Lions 233 rushing yards. Bennett, Roberson and junior Darrius Guy each scored touchdowns for the Lions.
The Lion defense was impressive, holding a Jacksonville team that ranked in the top 10 nationally in several offensive categories in 2013 to just 222 total yards. Senior Isiah Corbett led Southeastern with seven tackles, while senior Kaleb Muse was credited with six stops. Junior Jordan Batiste forced a fumble for SLU's lone turnover and junior Micah Eugene scooped it up and returned it for a touchdown.
SLU harassed JU junior quarterback Kade Bell into 19-for-50 passing for 149 yards, while holding the Dolphins to just 68 yards rushing on 29 carries.
Southeastern jumped on top on the opening drive of the game and never looked back. A 16-yard Bennett pass to Smiley and a 15-yard Roberson run highlighted an eight-play, 56-yard scoring march. Roberson scampered in from 10 yards out to cap the drive and give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 11:00 left in the first quarter.
The Lion defense forced a punt and SLU answered with the first big play of the game. Bossier, who transferred in from Louisiana-Lafayette at the start of the fall semester last week, burned the Dolphin defense and ran under a perfect pass from Bennett, racing 89 yards for a touchdown – the longest pass of Bennett's career and the fourth-longest pass play in school history. Senior Ryan Adams' extra point was blocked and the Lions led 13-0 halfway through the first quarter.
The Lion defense made the next big play. Batiste – in his first year with the Lions out of Tulane - popped the ball loose from D'Andre Randle at the 20-yard line and the ball squirted free down the near sideline. Eugene, one of three former LSU players in the Lion secondary, scooped up the loose ball and cruised in from three yards out to give Southeastern a 20-0 lead with 6:33 remaining in the opening quarter.
The SLU first quarter onslaught was capped after the defense forced a quick punt. Bennett broke through a hole on the right side and raced untouched 83 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 Lion lead less than 12 minutes into the game. The run was the longest of the Granada Hills, California native's Lion career.
The second quarter saw Jacksonville take advantage of Bennett's lone mistake to get on the board. Driving near midfield, the rain soaked ball slipped out of Bennett's hand and right into the grasp of senior linebacker Mike Klein, who returned the pick into Lion territory. Sophomore Brandon Behr knocked in a 33-yard field goal to cut the SLU advantage to 27-3 with 8:09 left in the opening half.
Southeastern answered with a nine-play, 41-yard scoring drive of its own. Adams, attempting his first field goal of his Lion career, drilled a 46-yard attempt to send the Lions into the break with a 30-3 lead.
Bennett's day was done after another big play on the first drive of the second half. Harrell ran free wide open down the left sideline, hauled in a Bennett pass, shook a JU defender and raced 73 yards for the score. The touchdown catch was the first of Harrell's career and gave the Lions a 37-3 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
Landor, in his first season with the Lions after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette, handled the quarterbacking duties for the rest of the way. Landor led Southeastern on its final scoring drive that extended into the fourth quarter. Guy handled much of the work on the 12-play, 63-yard scoring march, capping the drive and providing the final margin with a six-yard score with 13:06 remaining in the game.
Southeastern will be back in action next Saturday, hosting Southern Utah at 7 p.m in a battle of 2013 NCAA FCS playoff participants. The game will be broadcast live in the Hammond area on the flagship station of Southeastern Football, KSLU-FM (90.9), as well as affiliates and Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM (WHMD) and The Highway 104.7 FM (WJSH). LionVision subscribers will also access a live video stream at LionSports.net.
The Southeastern Channel will also air the game on tape delay. The first 200 students will receive free t-shirts and fans are encouraged to wear white. Former American Idol contestant and Ponchatoula native Lindsay Cardinale, who had her scheduled performance rained out on Saturday, will provide pre-game entertainment from 4-6 p.m. in Friendship Circle. Single-game tickets for the contest are available by contacting the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visiting LionSports.net and LionUp.com.