HAMMOND – Frank Scelfo hasn’t coached a Southland Conference game as Southeastern’s football coach, but he knows exactly what he’s getting into when it comes to facing Central Arkansas.
He’s already watched the film of the Bears’ 38-6 win over the Lions last season, and that's plenty enough to get an idea.
“They’ve got a tough, hard-nosed program,” said Scelfo, whose team hosts the FCS No. 17 Bears at 7 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium to open the Lions’ home slate and SLC play. “It’s successful for them. They’ve got a blueprint in place.”
The game will be broadcast on (KSLU 90.9-FM, Kajun 107.1-FM, The Highway 104.7-FM, WFPR 1400-AM in the Hammond area.
Scelfo said that blueprint starts on the offensive and defensive fronts for the Bears, who have won the past three games in the series.
“Those guys are big and physical up front,” Scelfo said. “They play a physical brand of football, which is good because we just played a physical football team in LSU, so we’ll get an opportunity to line up and match up again with those guys.”
The Bears (1-1) are coming off a 26-13 win over Murray State, giving former UCA quarterback Nathan Brown – the current Bears’ coach -- his first career victory.
UCA, the defending SLC champion, is averaging 345.5 yards per game behind quarterback Breylin Smith (41-56-1, 466 yards, TD), running back Carlos Blackman (37-119, 2 TDs) and receiver Lester Wells (11-169, TD), and Scelfo said the Bears aren’t complicated in their approach.
“They pretty much line up,” he said. “You know where they’re going to line up and where they’re going to come at you from, so they feel like fundamentally that’s who they want to be and what they want to be. They’re going to play physical football, so I think Saturday night, that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see a team coming in here knowing who they are and what they’re all about and play physical football.”
The Lions (0-2) will line up against a UCA defense surrendering 367.5 yards a game, led by Juan Jackson, who has 20 tackles.
“They’ll be some pressure, not much,” Scelfo said of the UCA defense. “They’re going to try to win the line of scrimmage and attack the box with their safeties. Their corners are good players. They’ll put them on an island at times. Can we affect them? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. That will be part of the plan. They’re going to try to get 8-9 guys to the box to stop the run game, and then you’re going to have to figure out a way to beat them over the top or in the in the pass game.”
Scelfo said a key for SLU will be keeping both quarterbacks – Chason Virgil and Lorenzo Nunez involved in the offense after the duo split time in the first two games, including last week’s 31-0 loss at LSU.
Virgil has passed for 547 yards and 4 TDs as the Lions’ quarterback, while Nunez has seen action a receiver, quarterback, receiver and running back.
Scelfo said the rotation between the pair will be situation-based.
“I think (SLU offensive coordinator) Greg’s (Stevens) had done a great job of putting our guys in a position where they can be successful, which in turn, lends itself to the entire unit to be(ing) successful,” Scelfo said. “We want to make sure that he (Nunez) gets his hands on the football, because he can do some special things with it.”
Opponents are averaging 444.5 yards against the Lions, who are led by Tamarcus Russell (24 tackles) and Matthew Wright (23 tackles).
“There’s some things that they do that I really like,” Seclfo said of the Bears. “Some of their schemes and things like that are kind of unique. At the end of the day, you don’t have to figure out who they are. They’re going to line up right in front of you, and they’re going to play football with you.”
With the start of SLC play, Scelfo said the goal for the Lions is to continued improvement.
“We need to take the experience that we had in Monroe, the experience that we had in Baton Rouge, and apply it toward getting ready for Saturday night here against Central Arkansas,” Scelfo said. “If we do that, it benefits us. If we don’t, then it doesn’t benefit us at all.
“I hope we don’t play harder this week because it’s conference than we did against LSU or UL-Monore,” Scelfo said. “I hope we play just as hard and just correct the mistakes that are correctable. We’re looking forward to playing. We’re looking forward to winning, but as the same time, we’ve just got to continue to grow.”