HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana coach Ron Roberts doesn’t need to face a Football Bowl Subdivision team to get motivated to take the field, and he doesn’t think his team should either.
In fact, Roberts said the players should be more excited for the opportunity to play in Legion Field, which the Lions (2-3) will do at 2 p.m. Saturday when they face UAB (0-4) in Birmingham, Ala.
The players echoed the sentiments of their coach in regards to facing a FBS team, until they realized SLU hasn’t beaten a team from the top-tier of college football since reinstating the sport in 2003.
The opportunity to snap that 16-game losing streak is where the added enthusiasm comes in.
“There’s a lot of motivation to go up there and get a win,” quarterback Nathan Stanley said. “It would be huge for our team to beat a FBS team. It would be awesome.”
On paper, this contest may appear to be a prime opportunity for SLU as UAB is still searching for its first win of the season. But look a little deeper and notice the Blazers’ opponents are a combined 17-3, including undefeated South Carolina and Ohio State.
UAB lost by seven to 4-1 Tulsa, and held a second-quarter lead against the Buckeyes.
“They’re the best 0-4 team I’ve seen, period,” linebacker Devan Walker said. “We’ll definitely have to come to work.”
Despite the record, UAB has shown flashes of success on offense, averaging 366.8 yards with 290.2 coming through the air.
The problems come in the turnover department, with UAB losing seven fumbles this season with three interceptions.
“They play well, then you see them shoot themselves in the foot,” Roberts said. “They’re a dangerous team because they’re their own worst enemy, but if they get that figured out, they’re a danger to anybody on Saturday.”
For the SLU defense, the task at hand is to shut down UAB’s corps of speedy receivers.
Jackie Williams and Patrick Hearn have each caught 20 passes this year, averaging 82.5 and 60.2 yards per game, respectively.
“Their receivers can run as well as anyone in the country,” Roberts said. “They can go. They can fly.”
Roberts also said the SLU defense needs to create third-and-long situations and force freshman quarterback Austin Brown to make plays. Brown made his first career-start last week against Tulsa, throwing for 337 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“He (Brown) gives us a really good chance to win,” UAB coach Garrick McGee said. “He was able to hang in there when things weren’t going well, which is hard for a freshman to do.
“I wish there were some plays that we could have back, but I think he’s growing and he’s going to really help us.”
Offensively, SLU has its own issues as leading rusher Michael Chaney will likely miss the game with a leg injury. The Lions, already ranked last in the Southland Conference in rushing, will need additional production from freshman Xavier Roberson, who ran for 75 yards last week after the starting the season as a defensive back.
“(It’s tough) losing Chaney,” Stanley said. “He was our guy that pounded it in between the tackles. But I feel like Xavier has come a long way. Considering how long he’s been on the offensive side, I’m pretty proud of him.”
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