No. 13 Southeastern rolls past NSU, 56-28, to keep Southland title hopes alive
Published 10:01 am Monday, November 15, 2021
The No. 13 Southeastern Louisiana University football team kept its Southland Conference championship hopes alive with an overwhelming 56-28 league victory over Northwestern State Saturday night in Strawberry Stadium.
With the victory, the Lions (8-2, 6-1 Southland) remained tied atop the league standings with No. 17 UIW, which defeated Nicholls, 27-23, in Thibodaux. SLU can clinch at least a share of the Southland Conference championship with a win over Nicholls on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Hammond.
“We were able to get out fast tonight and that was key for us, because we haven’t been able to do that against Northwestern State the last couple of times we’ve played them,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “We led 35-7 at the half and we felt like we played well in all three phases and that performance was indicative of what kind of team we want to be. Our focus now moves on to Nicholls and a big game on Thursday night.”
Southeastern extend its win streak to 11 in the all-time series versus the Demons (2-8, 2-5 Southland) thanks to its most efficient offensive effort of the season. The Lions finished with 554 yards on just 58 plays and set a new single-season game record for completion percentage, as Southeastern quarterbacks Cole Kelley (19-for-22), Eli Sawyer (4-for-4) and Cephus Johnson III (2-for-2) combined to complete 25-for-28 passes (89.3 percent).
In a little over a half of play, Kelley, the reigning Walter Payton Award winner, threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns. His final scoring throw of the night was his 35th of the season, tying the Southeastern single-season record previously set by former Lion Martin Hankins in 2004.
Kelley connected with Anthony Spurlock on a pair of touchdown passes, while also finding Gage Larvadain and Damien Dawson on scoring throws. Austin Mitchell led SLU with five catches for 84 yards, increasing his program career receiving yardage total to 2,915. Larvadain (four catches, 62 yards), Terrell Carter (3-60), Nolan Givan (3-40), Brennon Dingle (2-56) and Spurlock (2-48) were all a big part of the Lions’ passing attack.
Southeastern also scored four rushing touchdowns on Saturday on the way to its single-season school record sixth game of 50 or more points. Kelley, Johnson III, Taron Jones and Joseph Wilson all found the end zone on the ground for SLU.
On the defensive side of the ball, Alexis Ramos led the Lions with 11 tackles, while John Graves III paced SLU with two sacks. Zy Alexander intercepted his Southland-high sixth interception, while Chinedu Ogbonna collected his first interception of the season.
NSU quarterback Kaleb Fletcher threw for 226 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 22-for-36 passing. Curtis Williams led the Demons with 96 yards on 11 carries.
Southeastern jumped out on top on the opening drive. Spurlock ran under a 39-yard scoring pass from Kelley to cap a quick six-play, 67-yard drive and give the Lions an early 7-0 advantage.
Northwestern State drove deep into Lion territory on its opening possession, but Alexander made a leaping one-handed interception in the end zone to end the Demons’ threat. The Loreauville, Louisiana native has intercepted passes in each of the last four games and his six interceptions are tied for the third-most ever by a Lion in the season.
Alexander’s pick led to more points for the Lions. A 37-yard Mitchell catch and a 22-yard run by Jones highlighted a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. On fourth-and-goal from the NSU one-yard line, Kelley was stopped initially, but scored his 13th rushing touchdown of the season on second effort and put SLU up, 14-0, with just over a minute left in the opening quarter.
After forcing a NSU punt early in the second quarter, Southeastern quickly added to its lead. Dingle made a great 48-yard over-the-shoulder grab and on the next play, Kelley found a wide-open Larvadain down the right sideline for a 38-yard scoring pass, widening the SLU lead to 21-0 with 12:39 left in the first half.
After Northwestern State cut the lead to 21-7 on a Fletcher sneak from a yard out, the two teams traded punts. Ivan Drobocky partially blocked a Scotty Roblow punt to set up the Lions in Demon territory. A 39-yard reception by Carter set up Jones sliding in from a yard out for his sixth rushing touchdown of the year and a 28-7 SLU advantage with 2:35 left in the half.
After forcing a Demon punt with 1:13 left in the half, Southeastern added to its cushion. Kelley found Spurlock from nine yards out to cap an eight-play, 76-yard march that took just over a minute off the clock and send the Lions into the break with a commanding 35-7 advantage.
At halftime, SLU recognized the 2020 and 2021 Hall of Fame classes. The newest Southeastern Athletics Hall of Famers include Matt Carvell (golf), Maiya Cooper (soccer), Jameson Fisher (baseball), Brock Hebert (baseball), Harry Nunez (football), Adonson Shallow (track and field) and Renee Villarreal (tennis).
Northwestern State struck first in the second half, as Fletcher found a wide-open Kendrick Price from 35 yards out to cut the lead to 35-14 with just over a minute gone in the third quarter.
Southeastern ended any hopes of a NSU comeback on the next possession. Dawson took a short screen from Kelley, made a man miss and cruised in from 35 yards out to put SLU back up four scores at 42-14 with 10:13 remaining in the third quarter. The scoring pass to Dawson ended the day for Kelley, who has thrown for 3,997 yards and 35 touchdowns, while also rushing for 13 touchdowns in his final season as a Lion.
After both teams committed turnovers, Northwestern State again found the end zone. Robbie Williams hauled in a six-yard scoring toss from Fletcher to bring the Demons within, 42-21, with 2:08 left in the third.
Dingle fielded the ensuing kickoff on the run and broke loose for an 80-yard return down to the Demon two-yard line. On the next play, Johnson III walked in untouched from two yards out to send the Lions into the final quarter with a 49-21 lead.
Fletcher’s second rushing score of the game cut the advantage to 49-28 early in the fourth quarter. Wilson closed out the scoring with a 10-yard run with just under five minutes left to provide the final margin in the Southeastern win. With the win, the Lions have reached eight wins in a season for the 13th time in school history.
Thursday’s River Bell Classic will be televised on ESPN+ and can be 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.
Prior to the game versus the Colonels, Southeastern will honor its senior class in a special Senior Day ceremony.
NSU – 0 7 14 7 – 28 (2-8, 2-5 SLC)
SLU – 14 21 14 7 – 56 (8-2, 6-1 SLC)
SLU – Spurlock 39 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 12:05
SLU – Kelley 1 run (Rengifo kick), 1:18
SLU – Larvadain 38 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 12:39
NSU – Fletcher 1 run (Roblow kick), 7:35
SLU – T. Jones 1 run (Rengifo kick), 2:35
SLU – Spurlock 9 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 0:04
NSU – Price 35 pass from Fletcher (Roblow kick), 13:35
SLU – Dawson 35 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 10:13
NSU – R. Williams 6 pass from Fletcher (Roblow kick), 2:08
SLU – Johnson III 2 run (Rengifo kick), 1:50
NSU – Fletcher 3 run (Roblow kick), 13:53
SLU – J. Wilson 10 run (Bishop kick), 4:57
FIRST DOWNS 24 23
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 37-160 30-143
PASSING YDS (NET) 226 411
Passes Att-Comp-Int 36-22-2 28-25-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 73-386 58-554
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 3-52 4-117
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 1-2
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 2-20
Punts (Number-Avg) 5-35.2 1-54.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 4-30 7-58
Possession Time. 33:47 26:13
Third-Down Conversions 6-of-14 5-of-8
Fourth-Down Conversions 1-of-2 1-of-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-4 5-6
RUSHING: NSU – C. Williams 11-96, Fletcher 20-52, Dealey 2-12, Veasley 2-4, Landry 1-1. Team 1-(-5). Totals 37-160. SLU- J. Wilson 9-54, T. Jones 10-47, Johnson III 3-40, Kelley 6-3, Sawyer 1-0, Team 1-(-1). Totals – 30-143.
PASSING: NSU – Fletcher 22-36-2-226-2. Totals 22-36-2-226-2. SLU – Kelley 19-22-0-363-4, Sawyer 4-4-0-20-0, Johnson III 2-2-0-28-0. Totals – 25-28-0-411-4.
RECEIVING: NSU – Griffin 5-18, R. Williams 4-38, Price 3-56, Fitzwater 3-25, King 2-46, Fluellen 2-20, C. Williams 1-10, Isaac 1-8, Landry 1-4. Totals 22-226. SLU – Mitchell 5-84, Larvadain 4-62, Carter 3-60, Givan 3-40, Dingle 2-56, Spurlock 2-48, Jones 2-16, Dawson 1-35, Magee 1-4, Briggs 1-3, Kovacs 1-3. Totals 25-411.
A – 4,317.
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