Southeastern Louisiana football coach Ron Roberts admitted his team had to shake off a little rust in its 35-3 win over Incarnate Word last week, and he’s hoping Stephen F. Austin has some to shake some off as well when the teams square off in their Southland Conference opener at 7 p.m. Saturday in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions (3-2) had an open date before facing the Cardinals, and the Lumberjacks (2-3) had an open date last week after a 56-48 loss to Prairie View on Sept. 28.
“There was a couple of things that were rusty, but when you’re on an off week, the biggest effect you have is usually your passing game,” Roberts said Tuesday during his weekly media luncheon. “It’s that time of getting live action with a live rush and live timing and getting that timing down with the receivers.”
Stephen F. Austin enters the game ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision in total offense (588.8 yards per game), and quarterback Brady Attaway is second in the FCS in passing yards (1,917).
“They’re coming off a bye, and I think that’s one of the challenges they’re going to face ... do they have the same timing together that they had two weeks ago? I mean, you don’t know,” Roberts said. “He’s a pretty dang good quarterback, and a very experienced quarterback, so I’m not obviously putting that in my back pocket thinking that’s going to be the answer. You can’t wait on that.”
Roberts said Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett, who has a strained MCL and played with a knee brace against Incarnate Word, “is probably sitting there at 90 percent” but will play against SFA.
“He’s just not at full speed running the football, and that’s one of his biggest attributes, his ability to — everything breaks down, he can take off,” Roberts said. “I thought it was real big for him (last) week to stay in the pocket, throw the football and do those things because that’s what he may have to do for a couple of weeks until his leg gets completely healed.”
Bennett finished 19-for-30 for 267 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Incarnate Word, but Roberts said the injury had an impact on Bennett’s ability to throw.
“He missed his targets a couple of times, and it’s because you could kind of see him on his follow-through. He’s opening himself up, and it’s affected his throwing motion a little bit, just his ability to land on that foot and stuff,” Roberts said. “I think it was good for him to work through that and see it on film. I think he played well, but he’ll play a lot better this week.”
Kudos all around
Roberts praised the performances of running back Rasheed Harrell (nine carries, 87 yards, TD), receiver Jeff Smiley (seven receptions, 91 yards, TD) linebackers Cqulin Hubert (seven tackles, sack) and Isaiah Corbett (nine tackles, two sacks) against Incarnate Word.
“I think the the off week did him great wonders as far as going back on mental standpoint over everything,” Roberts said of Corbett. “He just looked a heck of a lot more relaxed out there, played faster than he’s played all year long, was a terror coming off the edge on pass rush and did a great job on run defense.”
Defensive lineman Jacob Newman also garnered praise from Roberts.
“Even when he’s not making the play, he’s doing his job, taking care of his assignment,” Roberts said of Newman. “He’s been the most consistent guy we’ve had up front, and we’re real pleased with him. He’s doing an outstanding job.”