Many folks worried during the past few days if foul weather associated with Tropical Storm Karen would disrupt Southeastern Louisiana’s football game against Incarnate Word, which came to Hammond all the way from San Antonio.
But in the end, the foul weather didn’t show up. The Lions, however, did — and in impressive fashion, at that.
Southeastern defeated Incarnate Word 35-3 in a non-conference match-up between the Southland Conference Lions and the Cardinals, who are playing as an independent this year.
Incarnate Word, in only its fifth season playing football, is set to join the conference in 2014.
The key to Southeastern’s success was in its defensive play. The Lions pressured Incarnate Word quarterback Trent Brittain throughout the evening, forcing him to throw on the run. The Lions also clogged the rushing lanes through much of the game, which made moving the ball difficult for the Cardinals.
Southeastern (3-2) outgained Incarnate Word (3-3) to 463-284.
The win marked the first time the Lions finished their nonconference schedule with a winning record since 2008.
“First off, I have to give credit to the defensive backs for providing coverage and letting us have time to get to the quarterback,” said Justin Church, who had 1.5 of the Lions’ four, first-half sacks against the Cardinals. “We could tell on film that he was a mobile quarterback and that he liked to make plays with his feet. We had to neutralize that.”
Southeastern coach Ron Roberts said he was pleased with the way his team did just that, and set the tone for the win.
“We did a good job of covering the back end and did a good job of getting pressure up front,” Roberts said. “It wasn’t a lot of blitzes, more just him rushing and us getting after him and making a play. (We) played really well early.”
The offense did its part as well.
The Lions jumped on top with just more than two minutes to go in the first quarter when quarterback Bryan Bennett hit Marquis Hayes on a 41-yard fly pattern down the right sideline.
Hayes caught the ball in stride in the back corner of the endzone, to give the Lions the lead.
Rasheed Harrell followed later in the first quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run. That was set up by his own 30-yard burst two plays earlier — a run that put Southeastern in the Incarnate Word red zone. Seth Sebastian kicked the second of his PATs with 57 seconds remaining in the opening period to give the Lions a 14-0 advantage.
It was an example of Southeastern taking advantage of the solid field position that it enjoyed through much of the game. They got the ball at their own 40 on that drive before moving on to their second touchdown.
The Cardinals answered on the next drive, though they moved only 6 yards. That was close enough, however, to allow Jake Wilcox the chance to boot a 42-yard field goal to close the score to 14-3 with just more than eight minutes to go before halftime.
The Lions outgained Incarnate Word 158-32 in the first quarter.
Harrell had five rushes for 67 yards in the period and Bennett threw for 75 yards. The Lions defense racked up four sacks up in the half, drawing a bead on the Cardinals’ Brittain from the outset.
And then, the Southeastern defense decided to get really stingy. With only three seconds remaining in the half, defensive back Marice Sutton intercepted Brittain and ran the ball back up the right sideline for a 67-yard score — the first in his college career. The ensuing PAT put the Lions on top 21-3 at the break.
The Lions outgained the Cardinals 222-75 in the first half.
Incarnate Word took the opening kick in the second half and drove deep into Southeastern territory. But when Wilcox lined up for a 30-yard field goal, it was blocked by the Lions’ Kevin Harmon.
After exchanging short drives that went nowhere, the Lions found the end zone again with Bennett running up the gut on a 1-yard keeper that, with the PAT, put Southeastern ahead 28-3.
Incarnate Word followed with a 40-yard pass from Brittain to Casey Jennings with just under 11 minutes remaining. Southeastern’s defense clamped down again, though, and the Cardinals wound up stalling at the Lions 27-yard line to end that threat.
Southeastern pulled further ahead with a 17-yard scoring pass from Bennett to Jeff Smiley with 7:38 to go.
At halftime, Southeastern had the opportunity to introduce its Hall of Fame class for the 2013 year, as well. Members being inducted include Nate “Big Easy” Lofton, who now is a member of the Harlem Globetrotters; former track and field All American Chris Carter; and football All American Felton Huggins.