No. 9 Southeastern travels to Northwestern State for Southland Conference contest

Published 9:54 am Friday, October 22, 2021

The No. 9 Southeastern Louisiana University football team will continue its Southland Conference schedule on Saturday, traveling to Northwestern State for a 3 p.m. contest at Turpin Stadium.

The game between the Lions (5-1, 3-0 Southland) and the host Demons (1-5, 1-2 Southland) will be televised on 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..

Southeastern climbed into the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time since 2014 on Monday, as the Lions moved to No. 9 in both the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and AFCA FCS Coaches Top 25.

The Lions are off to a 5-1 start to the season for the first time since 1980. SLU heads into Saturday’s game on a four-game winning streak, which is tied for its longest under head coach Frank Scelfo.

Southeastern opened its home schedule last Saturday with a 61-24 victory over HBU. On the way to their highest point total of 2021, the Lions set new season highs 634 total yards, 238 rushing yards and 34 first downs.

In the win over HBU, senior quarterback and reigning Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley tied a career-high for the second straight week with five passing touchdowns, throwing for 396 yards on 31-for-38 passing. Kelley connected with Austin Mitchell for a pair of touchdowns, while Nick Kovacs, CJ Turner and Gage Larvadain were also on the other end of Kelley scoring tosses.

The Lion offense is averaging 50.7 points and 569.5 yards per game this season. SLU leads the nation in third-down conversion percentage (59.5), completion percentage (74.6) and tackles for loss allowed per game (3.0), while also ranking among the FCS national leaders in scoring offense (2nd), total offense (2nd), first downs (188, 2nd) and passing yards per game (404.7, 3rd).

Armed with a plethora of explosive receiving options and guarded by a stalwart offensive line, Kelley is ahead of his production pace from the spring, when he claimed the FCS version of the Heisman. The Lafayette, Louisiana native has thrown for 2,395 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions on 195-for-258 passing, while also rushing for a team-high seven touchdowns.

Kelley currently leads the nation in completion percentage (75.6), while sitting second in FCS in completions per game (32.5), passing touchdowns, passing yards, points responsible for (182) and total offense (440.0 ypg).

He’s completed passes to 16 different receivers with Mitchell (38 catches, 496 yards, six touchdowns), Turner (27-464-5 TD) and Nolan Givan (27-245-1 TD) the most prolific targets. Kovacs (3 TD), Larvadain (2 TD), Tim Wilson Jr. (2 TD) and Cephus Johnson III (2 TD) all have multiple touchdown receptions.

The Southeastern defense limited HBU to 295 total yards – including just 56 on the ground. Jack Henderson and Brandon Barbee each recorded interceptions, while Josh Randall recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Alexis Ramos led the Lions with five tackles, as he, Chinedu Ogbonna, Garrett Crawford, Rodney Sopsher and Bryce Cage were all credited with tackles for loss.

Opponents are averaging 31.7 points and 385.2 yards per game versus Southeastern. Ramos leads the team with 37 tackles, followed by Alphonso Taylor (26), Herman Christophe (24), Matt Wright (19) and Donniel Ward-Magee (19). Crawford paces the squad with 4.5 tackles for loss.

The SLU defense is fourth in FCS with 10 interceptions this season. Taylor and Zy Alexander each have two picks, while Henderson, Barbee, Ferlando Jordan, Justin Douglas, Justin Dumas and Terrell Carter have one apiece.

On special teams, Larvadain is second nationally with 35.3 yards per kickoff return. Mateo Rengifo is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, while Austin Dunlap is averaging 42.8 yards per punt on eight punts this fall.

The Demons will be looking for their first home win of the season when SLU visits this Saturday. Last Saturday, a 21-3 halftime deficit was too much for NSU to overcome in a 35-17 loss to McNeese.

Northwestern State is averaging 16.5 points and 361.2 yards per game through six games. Kaleb Fletcher (120-for-187, six touchdowns, four interceptions) and Zach Clement (18-30, 220 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) have both seen time under center with Jay Griffin IV (28 catches, 298 yards, two touchdowns) and Kendrick Price Jr. (17-271-2 TD) serving as the top targets. All-Southland performer Scooter Adams leads NSU with 286 rushing yards, despite missing the past two games.

Opponents are averaging 30.3 points and 407.8 yards per contest versus the Demon defense. Jomard Valsin leads NSU with 39 tackles, as he and Isaiah Longino share team-high honors with 5.5 tackles for loss. PJ Harrington paces Northwestern State with two interceptions, while Jared Pedraza has a team-high three fumble recoveries.

Saturday will be the 65th meeting between the longtime in-state rivals. Southeastern leads the all-time series, 35-29, having won the last nine meetings with the Demons.

Southeastern will return home to host McNeese for a 6 p.m. Southland Conference contest next Saturday in Strawberry Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN3, 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.