HAMMOND — Going into last week’s season opener against Missouri, Southeastern Louisiana football coach Ron Robert’s main focus was on the Lions’ effort and execution, and after a 62-10 loss, that focus is much the same heading into Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener against South Dakota State.
“I think the tough part of that one to swallow was just the critical mistakes that we made that kind of just really shot ourselves in the foot,” Roberts said Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon.
“I thought when we played and when we executed, we played with them.”
Roberts’ main concern in the Missouri game comes from 28 points the Lions (0-1) surrendered via turnover — a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown by Zaviar Gooden and a 7-yard fumble recovery for a TD by Michael Sam — and punt returns of 70 and 72 yards by Marcus Murphy.
“There’s 28 points the defense is not even on the field,” Roberts said. “Really, you’re saying that these are some pretty critical errors that we did that really just exploded in our face.”
Roberts didn’t rule out making some personnel changes.
“The same things we saw probably Saturday is a lot of things I saw last year on film when I was watching, so now, like I told the players, this is our first fire together, and now there’s certain players we’ve got to evaluate whether you’re ever going to see the field again because you’re costing us critical mistakes and doing things that are just ridiculous and you don’t know why you’re doing them,” Roberts said. “Well, there comes a point when it’s you, and I’m going to make you accept responsibility and accountability for it or I’m not going to put you on the field again because you’re jeopardizing it for everybody.
“A lot of mistakes, they’re correctable,” Roberts continued. “I’m fine with a kid that is busting his tail, doing what he can. When it’s a lack of effort, that I really can’t deal with.”
But Roberts said there were positives to come out of the loss, including the play of the offensive line and quarterback Nathan Stanley.
“I think our offensive line played well,” Roberts said. “There (were) a couple of missed blocks, and there were some things in the run game we did not do and execute.”
Stanley finished 21-for-33 for 165 yards, one touchdown to Jeff Smiley and one interception — which came on his first pass attempt of the game and was returned by Gooden for a TD.
“The bright side of it is that he didn’t get rattled, he came back, he stood in the pocket, fired the ball, made some nice throws,” Roberts said of Stanley. “There’s some throws he’d like to have back, but in that game, there’s like seven drops.
“I’m positive about that,” Roberts said. “I think he’s the right guy for the trigger. I think he’s the guy.”
Roberts said he’s looking for more consistency from the Lions running backs and receivers. Michael Chaney (14 carries, 35 yards) and Zeke Jones (7-35) led Southeastern on the ground, while Smiley had five receptions for 44 yards and touchdown to lead the receiving corps.
“I think Michael Chaney’s going to be a good one,” Roberts said. “I think it goes back to that was his first career start as a tailback.”
Roberts said Chaney needs to improve his footwork, but said the senior “ran hard and did some good things.” The SLU coach also said he liked the play of running back Blaine LeBlanc.
“(LeBlanc) came in and blocked really well, played hard,” Roberts said. “We’ve got to get him on the field.”
“The receiving corps is just young, not a lot of experience,” he said. “I think two or three weeks, I don’t think you see all those drops, those misses.”
Roberts said the Lions defense, which gave up 452 yards to Missouri, had to adjust to the Tigers’ speed, particularly on a 76-yard TD run by Kendial Lawrence.
“We had the guy in the right spot ... and around the corner and here we go,” Roberts said. “Well, that was the first time they saw it that fast. I think they adjusted to that. I think they settled down pretty good. We had way too many mental mistakes, but I know they’re going to get better.”