HAMMOND – The Southeastern Louisiana football team had an unexpected open date when its scheduled game with Bethune-Cookman was canceled last week in anticipation of the after-effects of Hurricane Dorian.
That doesn’t mean the Lions took the week off, however.
Lions coach Frank Scelfo said he and his staff went to a practice schedule similar to that of SLU’s training camp while focusing on fundamentals and individual work instead of game-planning for an opponent.
The Lions, who stayed put at No. 23 in the STATS FCS Poll and moved to No. 24 in the AFCA Coaches Poll, travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss at 3 p.m. Saturday. The game will air on the SEC Network Alternate channel and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM WFPR), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Radio FX and TuneIn Radio apps.
“It helped us schematically from a coaching standpoint, because the game’s over, that the progress doesn’t stop,” Scelfo said at his media luncheon Monday at Strawberry Stadium. “You continue to make progress as the season goes on each week, so you hope that you play your best toward the end of the season, not at the beginning. So we hope that you didn’t see the best of us (against) Jacksonville State. That’s not the goal. The goal is for us to play better this week against Ole Miss than we did against Jacksonville State. We think that we’ve had a chance to accomplish that because of us doing what we did this past week in practice.”
The open date will also allow the Lions to be a day ahead of their normal practice schedule this week.
“We’ll be able to get in some extra reps from a game plan standpoint, but also give some of these younger guys some more reps, too,” Scelfo said. “When you have an extra day, you’ve got to be able to take advantage of it from a preparation standpoint.”
Wright to miss rest of season
Southeastern safety Matt Wright had surgery Monday to repair a hamstring injury, which will sideline him for the remainder of the season. It’s the second season in a row Wright’s season has been cut short after he suffered a torn ACL last year.
“He’s got one year of eligibility left, and we feel like because of the knee injury last year, the hamstring this year, we feel 99 percent certain we’ll be able to file for a medical (redshirt) and get his sixth year, which would allow him to graduate from here and get his master’s degree,” Scelfo said. “Matt’s … not that he doesn’t have visions on playing in the NFL, but he has visions on starting a company, making a bunch of money and doing a lot of things like that once he gets out and with a master’s degree. He’s going to be able to walk out of here with a championship ring on, hopefully, a degree, a master’s degree, and get started in life with no student debt. That’s a heck of a deal for him. He’s looking at the positive of it, so I think that’s pretty good.”
Scelfo said quarterback Chason Virgil, who exited the Jacksonville State game with a shoulder injury, will be “ready to go on Saturday” as the Lions’ starter with Cole Kelley also expected to get playing time.
“Cole does some things that we can take advantage of from a physical standpoint that maybe Chason couldn’t do, but overall Chason’s our starter, but we want to be able to get Cole in there to take advantage of those things that he’s able to do really well,” Scelfo said.
Ole Miss ties
Scelfo and Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez worked on the Tulane staff in 1997 and 1998, with the Green Wave going 12-0 during the 1998 season. Scelfo, who has stayed in touch with Rodriguez since that time, credited him with going to an uptempo offense, which helped fuel the team’s success.
“Rich brought it in from Glenville State when Tommy Bowden came over to Tulane, and it went to a new level with us,” he said. “In ’98, for us to be able to go undefeated and go 12-0 and kind of change the landscape in a lot of areas, Air Raid was one thing that was in at that time. We were doing with the tempo-type deal. We were doing RPOs back then. RPO seems to be the latest craze now … and we were doing it.
“I coached the tight ends in a four-wide offense, so I had a lot of free time on my hands during that time. It was pretty cool.”
Spurlock going back home
Micheal Spurlock gets a chance to face his alma mater in Saturday’s game as the Lions’ receivers coach. Spurlock played at Ole Miss from 2003-05 before going on to play in the NFL from 2006-2014.
“For him, besides Archie (Manning), I don’t know, Mike’s the biggest legend in Mississippi that they’ve got,” Scelfo said. “He’s a famous guy up there, and I know he’s catching heck from a lot of his old teammates and all that stuff, but he’s excited about going back. He feels like he’s very proud to be able to walk out there with this football team. He’s very proud to walk into Oxford and play Ole Miss, his alma mater, in front of all of his buddies and here’s the product we’re going to put up there against you. That makes you feel good.”
Southeastern running back Devonte Williams rushed for 37 yards on 12 carries and caught four passes for 76 yards against Jacksonville State, which Scelfo said is a combination of being more aggressive up front and moving away from the lateral-based running scheme the Lions employed last season.
“We’re away from that now,” Scelfo said. “Here’s the designated hole. Now you can bounce it or kick it. That’s what he’s done. That fits his game. That fits him a whole lot more than the last one.”