No. 17 SLU advances in FCS Playoffs with dominant 38-14 1st-round win over No. 22 FAMU

Published 11:07 am Monday, November 29, 2021

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The No. 17 Southeastern Louisiana University football team scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and never looked back on the way to a dominant 38-14 win over No. 22 Florida A&M in the first round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs Saturday night in Strawberry Stadium.

Southeastern (9-3) held a 38-0 lead after the opening drive of the fourth quarter. Florida A&M (9-3) scored a pair of touchdowns in the waning minutes to lessen the final margin.

The third playoff victory in school history allows the Lions to advance to the second round, where they will face No. 3 seed James Madison at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Facing a FAMU defense that came into the game ranked atop FCS in total defense, Southeastern finished with 503 total yards and 29 first downs, controlling the clock for nearly 39 minutes.

Southland Conference Player of the Year, reigning Walter Payton Award winner and SLU quarterback Cole Kelley finished 31-for-45 for 345 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Kelley’s top targets were Nolan Givan (six catches, 74 yards, 1 TD) and Taron Jones (5-85-2 TD). Nick Kovacs caught a Kelley scoring throw and also rushed for a score.

The Lion defense was dominant through the majority of the contest, holding FAMU to 295 total yards – 164 of which came in the final period after the game was long decided.

Sterrling Fisher led SLU with seven tackles, while Jack Henderson contributed six tackles and an interception. Blayne Delahoussaye paced the Lions with three pass breakups.

The Southeastern defense harassed FAMU quarterback Rasean McKay into 238 yards on 18-for-40 passing. Xavier Smith was McKay’s top target, finishing with a game-high nine catches for 87 yards. Markquese Bell led the Rattler defense with 16 tackles and a forced fumble.

After forcing a FAMU punt on its opening possession, the Lions took the lead for good on the first drive of the game. It appeared SLU was going to have to settle for a field goal, but Kovacs faked it from his holder position and scampered in from 21 yards out to put the Lions up, 7-0, with 6:09 remaining.

Florida A&M managed a couple of first downs before being forced to punt on its next drive. Jose Romo-Martinez downed his 56-yard punt at the SLU two-yard line.

The Lions were undeterred by the unfavorable field position. Southeastern marched 98 yards on 11 plays to double its lead. Kelley found Nolan Givan from six yards out to cap the drive and put SLU up, 14-0, a little over a minute into the second quarter.

On the next Rattler possession, Henderson stepped in front of a McKay pass and picked it off, setting SLU up at the FAMU 41-yard line. A 30-yard pass from Kelley to Terrell Carter set Southeastern up with a goal-to-go chance, then Kelley eluded pressure and shoveled a nine-yard scoring toss to Jones to give Southeastern a commanding 21-0 lead.

Mateo Rengifo connected on a 21-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter to send SLU into the break with a 24-0 advantage after a second period that saw the Lions limit the visitors to two first downs and 45 total yards.

Southeastern added to its lead on the opening drive of the third quarter. Kelley fired a dart to Kovacs from 20 yards out to put the Lions up, 31-0, with 9:29 left in the period.

The SLU defense forced FAMU to a pair of punts and turned over the Rattlers on downs in a dominant third quarter. Kelley closed out his night on the third play of the fourth quarter, as Jones took a screen pass and followed excellent Lion blocking on the way to a 39-yard touchdown and a 38-0 lead.

Florida A&M managed a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes to ensure the final 38-14 margin.

The SLU-JMU game next Saturday will be televised on ESPN+. The contest can also be heard live 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

FAMU – 0 0 0 14 – 14 (9-3)

SLU – 7 17 7 7 – 38 (9-3)

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

SLU – Kovacs 21 run (Rengifo kick), 6:09

2nd Quarter

SLU – Givan 6 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 13:49

SLU – T. Jones 9 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 10:02

SLU – Rengifo 21 FG, 0:00

3rd Quarter

SLU – Kovacs 20 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 9:29

4th Quarter
SLU – T. Jones 39 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 13:50

FAMU – X. Smith 23 pass from McKay (Romo-Martinez kick), 5:30

FAMU – Manigo 2 pass from McKay (Romo-Martinez kick), 0:10

                                                                            FAMU    SLU

FIRST DOWNS                                              16           29
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)                                  19-53      44-158

PASSING YDS (NET)                                       238         345

Passes Att-Comp-Int                                          40-18-1   49-31-1

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS                59-291    93-503

Fumble Returns-Yards                                        0-0          0-0

Kickoff Returns-Yards                                       5-105      1-22

Punt Returns-Yards                                             1-8          2-17

Interception Returns-Yards                                 1-0          1-7

Punts (Number-Avg)                                           8-45.1     5-42.0

Fumbles-Lost                                                      0-0          1-0

Penalties-Yards                                                   11-107    5-36

Possession Time.                                                 21:47      38:13

Third-Down Conversions                                    2-of-11   11-of-21

Fourth-Down Conversions                                  0-of-2     3-of-4

Red Zone Scores-Chances                                  1-1          4-6

RUSHING: FAMU – Bonnett 9-38, McKay 4-9, McCloud 4-4, Jennings 1-1, Oxendine 1-1. Totals 19-53. SLU – T. Jones 11-55, Kelley 13-38, Britt 6-22, Kovacs 1-21, Johnson III 8-18, Givan 1-7, Dingle 1-3, Mitchell 1-2, Team 2-(-8). Totals 44-158.

PASSING: FAMU – McKay 18-40-1-238-2. Totals 18-40-1-238-2. SLU – Kelley 31-45-1-345-4, Johnson III 0-4-0-0-0. Totals 31-49-1-345-4.

RECEIVING: FAMU – Smith 9-87, Sheread 5-86, Manigo 3-47, Dixon 1-18. Totals 18-238. SLU – Givan 6-74, T. Jones 5-85, Dingle 5-41, Kovacs 3-39, Mitchell 3-20, Dawson 3-8, Carter 2-39, Larvadain 2-15, Britt 1-14, Spurlock 1-10. Totals 31-345.

A – 4,125.

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