No. 14 Southeastern travels to McNeese for Southland opener

Published 1:50 pm Thursday, September 30, 2021

The No. 14 Southeastern Louisiana University football team begins its Southland Conference slate on Saturday, traveling to McNeese for a noon league contest in Cowboy Stadium.

The game between the Lions (2-1, 0-0 Southland) and the host Cowboys (1-3, 0-1 Southland) will be televised on Cox Sports Television and ESPN+. The league opener can also be heard live from Lake Charles in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at www.kajun107.net.

Southeastern is coming off a bye week. On Sept. 18, the Lions closed out nonconference play with a 56-10 victory at Central Connecticut State on Sept. 18. SLU finished with 571 total yards, 30 first downs and did not attempt a punt in the lopsided road win over the Blue Devils.

Senior quarterback and Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley was named the Louisiana Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 444 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. CJ Turner (five catches, 119 yards, two touchdowns) and Austin Mitchell (5-116-1 TD) were Kelley’s top targets in the win.

The Lion defense posted its best effort of the season, holding CCSU to 290 total yards and forcing four turnovers. Alphonso Taylor, Justin Dumas and Terrell Carter each recorded interceptions, while Darrius Harry recovered a fumble. Herman Christophe led SLU with 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

The Lion offense has posted 40 or more points in a school-record seven straight contests dating back to last season. Southeastern ranks among the FCS national leaders in total offense (554.7 ypg, 3rd), scoring offense (49.0 ppg, 3rd), passing offense (411.7 ypg, 3rd), third-down conversion percentage (57.1, 2nd), completion percentage (74.3, 2nd), first downs (92, 9th), red zone offense (100.0, 1st) and tackles for loss allowed (2.0 per game, 1st).

Kelley is among the national leaders in every passing category, having thrown for 1,202 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions on 99-for-133 passing (74.4 completion percentage).

Kelley has connected with 15 different receivers through the first two games with Mitchell (19 catches, 240 yards, 3 TD) and Turner (16-302-3 TD) leading the way. Turner (174 catches, 2,221 yards, 17 TD) and Mitchell (133-2,205-20 TD) are two of 13 active FCS players with over 2,000 career receiving yards, ranking fifth and sixth, respectively among active FCS players in that category.

Taron Jones leads SLU with 119 rushing yards. Kelley has a team-high four scores on the ground, followed by Jones (three) and Cephus Johnson III (two).

Opponents are averaging 380.7 yards and 27.7 points per game versus the Southeastern defense heading into Southland play. Alexis Ramos and Taylor share the team lead with 18 tackles, followed by Christophe (14), Jack Henderson (12), Matt Wright (10), Donniel Ward-Magee (10) and Chinedu Ogbonna (10).

Taylor, Dumas, Ferlando Jordan and Zy Alexander share the team lead with interceptions. Austin Dunlap (41.4 punting average) and Mateo Rengifo (19-20 PAT) lead the SLU special teams unit.

McNeese will be looking to bounce back from a 31-0 loss in its Southland Conference opener at UIW. The Cowboys fell into a 14-0 hole in the opening minutes and could never recover, as the host Cardinals outgained the visitors, 468-290.

The Cowboys opened the season with a 42-36 loss to Division II power West Florida, before falling, 34-7, at LSU. McNeese bounced back with a 31-24 victory at Southern before falling this past week in San Antonio.

McNeese is averaging 294.8 yards and 18.5 points per contest heading into Saturday’s contest. Quarterback Cody Orgeron has thrown for 754 yards, four touchdowns and one interception on 70-for-121 passing.

Josh Matthews (15 catches, 185 yards, two touchdowns) and Walker Wood (12-168) are Orgeron’s top options in the passing game. Stephon Huderson paces McNeese on the ground with 288 yards and two scores on 68 carries.

Opponents are averaging 398.5 yards and 32.8 points per contest versus McNeese. The Cowboys feature one of the premier defenders in FCS in Buck Buchanan Award candidate Isaiah Chambers, along with fellow preseason first team All-Southland defensive end Mason Kinsey.

Kordell Williams leads McNeese with 33 tackles, followed by Darius Daniels (31), Corlone Harris (27), Chambers (26) and Andre Sam (21). Chambers has a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss, while Colby Richardson and Jarrius Wallace share team lead with one interception each.

Southeastern is 21-25 all-time versus McNeese. The home team has won the last seven meetings with the Lions’ most recent win in Lake Charles coming in the 2013 season.

Southeastern is 9-6 all-time in Southland Conference openers since becoming a full football-playing member of the Southland Conference prior to the 2005 season.

Following Saturday’s contest, the Lions will close out their five-game road swing to start the season at Nicholls next Saturday at noon in Thibodaux. The game between SLU and the Colonels will be televised on Cox Sports Television and ESPN+, while also being heard in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at www.kajun107.net.

TICKETS
For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net. Southeastern will continue offering mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2021-22 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.

SOCIAL MEDIA
For more information on Southeastern Football, follow @LionUpFootball and @Coach_Scelfo on Twitter, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.

TOUCHDOWN CLUB/S CLUB

Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the football program are encouraged to join the Touchdown Club. Lion football alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.

All membership fees and donations to both the Touchdown Club and S Club (football) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern football program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at laa@southeastern.edu or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.

CLEAR BAG POLICY

Southeastern Athletics instituted a clear bag policy for all ticketed events, effective with the start of the 2018 football season. For more information on the clear bag policy, visit www.LionSports.net/clear.