HAMMOND – Southeastern scored one of the biggest wins since the program was reinstated for the 2003 season in Saturday’s 34-0 road victory over then-No. 6 Central Arkansas, but there’s one thing Lions coach Frank Scelfo doesn’t want to call it.
“It’s not an upset to the team that wins the game,” Scelfo said during his Monday media luncheon at Strawberry Stadium, while noting he couldn’t remember the last time he was part of a shutout. “It’s only an upset to the people that didn’t think that team was going to win the game.”
When it comes down to it, the win was about some basics and principles Scelfo has harped on since the season began.
“Our preparation last week was as good as it has it’s been all year long, and it has been now for the last couple of weeks,” Scelfo said. “I thought we prepared really well … all focused practices, and I attribute that to the maturity level of our guys. I think that our guys have taken command of our football team. They’re the ones that are setting the culture and setting the standards. They don’t allow mediocrity in the locker room. They don’t allow the naysayers to stick around. The negative talk is being eliminated, and because of that, it’s been a lot more productive.”
The win placed SLU (6-3, 5-2 in SLC) into a four-way tie for the Southland Conference lead with UCA, Sam Houston State and Nicholls State. The victory also moved the Lions to No. 23 in the STATS FCS Top 25 and AFCA FCS Coaches Poll heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Abilene Christian (5-5, 4-4).
Scelfo praised offensive coordinator Greg Stevens and defensive coordinator Lance Guidry for their game plans against UCA and the Lions’ execution, rolling up 490 yards of total offense while holding the Bears to 261 yards. It was the Lions’ first shutout since 2009, UCA’s first shutout loss since 1995, and the Bears’ first home shutout loss since 1986.
“It was just a pleasure to watch our guys compete,” Scelfo said. “I thought that across the board offensively, defensively we did some really good things. We can single out guys, but that’s kind of not what we are. It’s a team effort.”
The Lions held UCA to 68 yards rushing on 21 carries, while quarterback Breylin Smith, who came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards per game, was held to 193 yards passing, three interceptions and no touchdowns.
“I thought our players did a good job fitting some of the runs that UCA had, and we affected the quarterback,” Scelfo said.
Didn’t see that coming
Another aspect Scelfo said helped SLU was taking advantage of four Central Arkansas turnovers against a team that came into the game with a zero turnover margin.
The Lions led 21-0 at halftime and the Bears had outscored opponents 165-93 in the second half.
“We knew what kind of second-half football team these guys were,” Scelfo said. “Nobody was comfortable. Nobody was happy. It was just ‘go back to work. Come on in the locker room. Let’s make some adjustments -- whatever we need to do and then get moving forward.’ You don’t foresee those things. If you did, I would have gone to Vegas. I don’t know if I’d be here today.”
Racking up the honors
While Scelfo shied away from praising individual players after the UCA win, a couple of Lions earned accolades as junior quarterback Cole Kelley was selected Offensive Player of the Week by the Southland Conference and national Player of the Week honors from STATS.
Kelley tied a single-game school record with four rushing touchdowns, while going 20-of-24 passes for 273 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He’s also the Lions’ team leader with eight rushing touchdowns.
“He’s got a specific skill set,” Scelfo said of Kelley. “He’s big. He’s a big guy. Because of that, there are some things we want to do in short-yardage and goal line, and then now that’s expanded because he’s much more comfortable with the offense, so we’re able to do more with him.”
SLU defensive back Ferlando Jordan was selected the SLC and Louisiana Sports Writers Association Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes with four pass break-ups against UCA. Jordan is tied for the Southland lead with five interceptions.
His numbers weren’t eye-popping against Central Arkansas, but maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be with Lion running back Devonte Williams, whom Scelfo said is returning to full health after nursing a foot injury earlier this season.
Williams finished with nine carries for 32 yards and led the team with 86 yards on six catches.
“He’s a guy that’s really focused right now, and I think he’s becoming one of our guys that when you look at him, he’s a go-to guy for us,” Scelfo said. “Sometimes that’s left unsaid when you look at all the things that happen. His numbers, as far as yardage and all that, that’s not even in the top-10 in this conference, but if you tell me there’s 10 more backs in this conference that are better than him, I’ll tell you you’re crazy because I think he’s doing a heck of a job for us in the running game, in receiving and then also in protections. His leadership and everything else, his work ethic has been fantastic.”
River Bell Classic on TV
Southeastern’s Nov. 21 regular season finale against Nicholls was among the Week 13 Southland Football Television selections, released by the league office on Monday.
The 29th playing of the River Bell Classic will kick off at 6 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium. The game will air on Cox Sports Television and be simulcast on ESPN+ outside of the CST area.