Finally home again, Southeastern welcomes Incarnate Word

Southeastern Louisiana’s football team officially started its season Aug. 29 by hosting Southeast Missouri. That’s also the last time the Lions played a home game.

For coach Ron Roberts, Saturday’s 7 p.m. game against Incarnate Word at Strawberry Stadium is kind of like getting another crack at a home opener.

“We’re excited to be at home,” he said.

The Lions (2-2) will face an Incarnate Word team that is playing as a Football Championship Subdivision independent this season as it make the transition to a full Southland Conference schedule next year.

Incarnate Word played a pair of future Southland foes in Central Arkansas (a 58-7 loss) and Sam Houston State (a 52-21 loss), but Roberts said the Cardinals have shown improvement.

“You watch them on film, (and) they’re getting better every week,” he said. “They can play with anybody. They were up late in the second quarter on Sam and actually dropped two balls for touchdowns, so it very well could have been 28-14 in the second quarter.”

The Cardinals (3-1) are averaging 368.2 yards on offense, led by quarterback Trent Brittain (81-150-2, 948 yards, seven TDs passing and 40 carries, 201 yards, TD rushing), running back Junior Sessions (51-285, five TDs) and receiver Casey Jennings (24 receptions, 330 yards, two TDs).

“They mix it up well,” Roberts said. “They’re real balanced. It’s hard to get a read by formation or tendencies. They do a really good job. I expect to have a team that’s coming in here that’s going to be very well prepared for us.”

Incarnate Word will square off against a Southeastern defense giving up 407 yards per game and led by defensive backs John Graves (19 tackles) and Kevin Harmon and linebackers Drew Misita (16) and Kaleb Muse (15).

“The biggest problems they create are they’re real good,” UIW coach Larry Kennan said of the Lions defense. “You can do a lot of things on defense, but if you’re not very good, it doesn’t matter. But if you’re real good, you can do whatever you want to do and the outcome is going to be pretty good.”

SLU’s offense, led by quarterback Bryan Bennett (52 carries, 319 yards, five TDs rushing, 51-82-6, 649 yards, TD passing), running back Kody Sutton (45 carries, 215 yards, three TDs) and receiver Tony McCrea (11-198), is averaging 457.2 yards.

Bennett suffered a leg injury against Samford. Roberts said he practiced earlier in the week but was not 100 percent. Jordan Barnett was 10-for-17 for 155 yards and a TD against Samford.

“They’re a big, strong, veteran team,” Kennan said. “You know, they’ve got a lot more juniors and seniors than we do. We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen, and they have a lot of juniors and seniors they’re playing, so that concerns us a little bit.”

Incarnate Word, which operates from a 3-4 scheme, is giving up 332.4 yards per game. It’s led by safety Devin Haywood (26 tackles) and linebacker Juston Edwards (24).

“They don’t blitz a bunch,” Roberts said. “They’re not going to put themselves in bad position. They’re going to play fundamentals. They’re not an attacking 3-4. They do some things by shades and alignments that create some problems. ...

“What they are to me defensively is a team that’s going to play sound fundamental football, is not going to put themselves in a bad position and they’re not going to create a lot of mistakes. You’re going to have to go beat them.”