HAMMOND — The good news for the Southeastern Louisiana football team is that the brutal 70-0 beating it suffered Saturday at Sam Houston State brought several things to light for Lions coach Ron Roberts.
The loss dropped SLU to 3-6 on the season and 3-2 in the Southland Conference heading into the final two weeks of the season, but allowed Roberts to take a long, hard look at his team as he closes out his inaugural season in Hammond.
“We got physically dominated for four quarters in every phase of the game,” Roberts said. “When that happens, everything is up for evaluation. You’ve got to evaluate everything — where you’re at as a program and as a team to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You’ve got to learn the lessons from it and you’ve got to get something out of it.”
That was Roberts’ main goal as he addressed the media Tuesday, looking for the silver lining in the worst loss of the season, and worst margin of defeat since SLU brought back football in 2003. The biggest issue Roberts had wasn’t with the actual performance itself, but the effort of some of the players in the defeat.
The Lions went down 21-0 at the start of the second quarter, which took the wind out of their sails early.
“We had some that were fighting their tails off, and we had some that turned it down,” Roberts said. “I think at that point, you need to evaluate yourself. We had some that were intimidated in warm-ups. They were intimidated before they even hit the field. You can’t do that.”
Roberts has emphasized from Day 1 his plans to turn the SLU program around and said Saturday’s performance was not an accurate barometer of the team’s progress.
He also wanted to make sure a 70-point shutout doesn’t become the norm, whether that falls on the coaches, the players, or a combination.
“We’ve got to do evaluations,” Roberts reemphasized. “Players, coaches, everybody is being evaluated the next two weeks. If you don’t perform the next two weeks, we’ve got to evaluate whether you need to be part of this program or not. If you’re not going to play the best of your ability every time you show up to play, we need to evaluate whether you want to be a college football player or not. I think everybody is open to that evaluation.”
Saturday marks the final home game of the 2012 season, which means the last stand at Strawberry Stadium for the Lions’ 16 seniors.
Roberts has only spent one season with the team, but still had a strong message to the senior class, who still has a chance to make history at SLU.
If the Lions win out, they’ll finish with a 5-2 conference record, which would be the best mark for SLU since 1978 — the last time the Lions finished with a winning record in the conference. It would also be the Lions’ best finish since joining the SLC in 2005.
“If we can finish 5-2 in this conference, that would be the best finish ever in the Southland Conference,” Roberts said. “You’ve got a chance to do something nobody’s done here. You’ve got a chance to set a tone.”
Roberts also hopes a successful campaign for the seniors will be just the start of a series of seasons the Lions have as legitimate conference contenders.
“For seniors, you’ve got a chance here to hopefully do something to build momentum and be the launch pad so a year or two years later when we, say, win a conference championship, you can look back and say, ‘I was part of that. I helped build that. I did my share,’” Roberts said. “It’s a chance to do something special and a chance to do something nobody’s done, and it’s a chance for them to build for our future of this program. You’ve got a chance to set it on the right course to be something special before you get out of here.”