HAMMOND – The mood of the Southeastern football team following last week’s loss to Incarnate Word was understandably not the best, and it’s a feeling the Lions likely don’t want to experience again.
“They’re disappointed,” SLU coach Frank Scelfo said of the Lions’ 52-34 loss. “We didn’t get it done. We felt like we could have gotten it done.”
The Lions (2-4, 2-2 Southland Conference) get a chance to get back in the win column hosting Houston Baptist (1-4, 0-3) for homecoming at 4 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium.
Houston Baptist, which is coming off a 66-35 loss to Central Arkansas, is seventh in the SLC in scoring offense, averaging 410.2 yards per game, paced by the league’s second-leading rusher in Dreshawn Minniweather (83.2 ypg., 4 TDs).
Quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown for 1,361 yards, 13 TDs, and five interceptions.
“They give you some formations and plays that I guess we haven’t seen all year long, so it will be quite a challenge for our defense to recognize those things on the field,” Scelfo said. “Sometimes they’re formation specific or personnel specific or both. The key will be recognizing and match up to it …”
Zappe’s main targets are Jareth Sterns (24-229, TD) and David Racine (11-251, 3 TDs), and Scelfo expects the Huskies to isolate the receivers and work over the top.
“They’ll continually test us in the secondary,” he said. “Everybody else has. It’s up to us to be able to defend that thing.”
The Lions are seventh in the league in total defense (465.7 ypg), while linebacker Tamarcus Russell is third in tackles with 60.
“We’ve got some high-energy, high-effort guys who you’d say if you looked at them, you don’t quite measure up (to) what you want, but when you turn the film on, they’re doing the things that you really want to do,” Scelfo said while mentioning SLU defenders Tre Spann, John Miller and Isaac Berglund
Southeastern, which ranks sixth in the SLC in total offense (420.3 ypg) faces an HBU defense surrendering 500.2 yards per game, led by linebacker Langston Tunston, whose 71 total tackles are second in nation among FCS players.
"He’s an active player, downhill, good open-field tackler, really a physical football player, so he’s going to present a challenge for us too,” Scelfo said. “We’ve got to be able to make sure we get a hat on him.”
Southeastern quarterback Chason Virgil leads the conference in passing average per game (306.8 yards) and has thrown for 1,841 yards and 11 TDs. But part of Scelfo’s focus is making sure his confidence isn’t shaken after he committed three turnovers against UIW, including a pick-six and a fumble lost in the end zone that was recovered for a touchdown.
“Nobody feels worse than he does on some of those things, but we’ve got to get them corrected,” Scelfo said. “We’ve got to make better choices and we’ve got to do better things with the ball so that we’re not turning it over and giving the opposition 7-14 points during the course of a game.
“Do I expect his confidence to be shaken? No. I expect him to grow and become a better quarterback from it.”
The Lions have climbed from the conference cellar to ninth in the league (104.3 ypg) with a couple of solid rushing performances the past two weeks.
“We’re young in the middle, and we’re undersized and things like that, but we’re good enough to run the football effectively,” Scelfo said. “We’ve got good enough players to do whatever we need to do. We’ve just got to emphasize it, demand it, coach it, develop and keep doing it, stay with it, have some patience, and I think we’ll be OK doing that.”
Scelfo said another key for the Lions will be holding on to the lead against HBU if that materializes after SLU lost an early one last week.
“When you have an opportunity to close out, you’ve got to close out, and it’s part of our growing process,” Scelfo said. “We’ve got to be able to do that. We’ve got to continue to work toward closing teams. We can’t just score on the first series and say it’s all over. We’ve got to continue to play and continue to score.”