Southeastern Louisiana’s football team doesn’t open Southland Conference play until Oct. 12 hosting Stephen F. Austin, but Lions coach Ron Roberts figures his team will get a good measuring stick in terms of competition in Saturday’s game against Samford — the Lions’ third-straight road contest.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Ala.
“I think it’s going to be a great indicator for us where we’re at, and that’s the whole thing,” Roberts said. “Where are we at, and what things do we still have to work on going in (to conference play)? Right now, we need a ‘W’. We need a ‘W’ before we come home.”
Samford (2-1), which is coming off a 27-20 win over Florida A&M, is averaging 290 yards per game behind quarterback Andy Summerlin (58-89-3, 454 yards, four touchdowns) and running back Fabian Truss (68-296, three TDs).
“I think what they do on offense, they’re playing to their talent, and they’re playing to the things that they do well,” Roberts said. “I think they’re coached really well.”
But Roberts said the challenge for the Lions defense, which is giving up 347 yards per game and is led by linebacker Drew Misita, defensive back John Graves and linebacker Kaleb Muse, could be getting to Summerlin.
“You can’t just go get after him pressure-wise,” Roberts said. “I don’t expect we’re going to get there a lot just because he doesn’t hold the ball very long.
“He’s an experienced guy. He’s going to get the ball out of his hands quick.”
Defensively, Samford is giving up 380 yards per game and is led by safeties Josh Kimberlin and Trey Wesley (19 tackles). Kimberlin is the reigning Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week after his three interceptions in last week’s game, while Wesley is a hard hitter.
“He’s physical,” Roberts said of Wesley. “He can run. He’s the whole enchilada, so he’s really a good player. We’re going to have to (not) put the ball in situations where he’ll make a great play, because he will. ... He’ll be as physical as anybody we’re going to see all year long.
“He’s going to be a factor in the ball game. We’ve got to make sure he’s not a big factor in the ball game.”
The Bulldogs will be looking to slow a Southeastern offense averaging 446.3 yards and 29.3 points per game and is led by quarterback Bryan Bennett (49 carries, 311 yards, five TDs rushing, 48-76-6, 623 yards, TD passing), running backs Rasheed Harrell (32-119, TD), Kody Sutton (20-115, TD) and Xavier Roberson (24-104, TD) and receivers Tony McCrea (10-188) and Jeff Smiley (10-130, TD).
“That is a good football team,” Samford assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Bill D’Ottavio said of the 1-2 Lions. “Don’t let their record fool you, they’ve played TCU and (sixth-ranked South Dakota State), and that was their two losses. They have weapons all over. On offense, they have a really good quarterback, and they do a great job of spreading the ball around.
“On the defensive side, they are very active,” D’Ottavio continued. “They’re very strong up front, they have an All-American (candidate in safety Todd Washington) in the secondary and a good linebacking corps. This is going to be a great challenge.”
D’Ottavio has been serving as the Bulldogs’ coach while head coach Pat Sullivan recovers from back surgery. Sullivan, however, will be with the team for its home opener.
But for Roberts, it’s about putting together a complete game after a turnover and penalty-filled effort last week.
“We don’t want to just play well,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to play smart. That’s the next step for us is to put it all together. We need a coming-out game. We need to put everything together and come out there and play four quarters of football and play as well as we really can.”