HAMMOND – The way Southeastern’s game with Houston Baptist played out, the ending was fitting.
Southeastern scored 14 points in 24 seconds in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 62-52 homecoming win over HBU on Saturday at Strawberry Stadium.
The win came after the Lions led 28-0 in the first half only to have the Huskies take the lead twice in the fourth quarter.
“It’s not what we wanted in all aspects, but the resiliency of our football team – I say it every week, man – that we compete all the way to the end of the game, and we did. We did it again tonight,” SLU coach Frank Scelfo said after the Lions gave up 512 yards of total offense as the teams tied the SLU record for most combined points in a game. “You’re just not going to get us down. We’re not going to flinch. No matter what happens to us, we’re not going hang our heads and give up and allow people to get us down. It’s not going to happen.”
The Huskies led 52-48 when Devonte Williams returned a punt 49 yards to the HBU 25.
“I didn’t know Devonte was going to make that play, but all of us on the team know he’s capable of doing that at any time,” SLU quarterback Chason Virgil said. “Just to see him make that play, it was exciting …”
That set up Virgil’s 15-yard TD pass to CJ Turner, who fought his way into the end zone for the score, helping the Lions to a 55-52 lead with 40 seconds to play.
“I was just reading the cornerback,” Virgil said of the play after finishing 19-for-34 for 240 yards, two TDs and an interception. “If he sinks, we’re able to hit CJ. If he comes up, I think we have Lorenzo (Nunez) probably running a corner route back there. The corner just sunk back. I just went through my reads and just threw it to CJ and he was able to make a great play for us.”
But that wasn’t the end of the scoring as John Miller sacked HBU quarterback Bailey Zappe, forcing a fumble which was recovered by Xavier Lewis and returned 38 yards for a touchdown for the final margin with 16 seconds to play.
It was one of five defensive touchdowns the teams combined to score in the game.
Getting to the wild ending had its share of twists and turns for both teams in the second half.
Southeastern led 42-23 as Darren Johnson’s 49-yard scamper to the HBU 11 on the first play of the third quarter set up his 6-yard TD run three plays later. Johnson finished with 127 yards on 21 carries and had 188 all-purpose yards.
After SLU missed a 38-yard field goal following a Tamarcus Russell interception, HBU went to its uptempo offense to eventually take the lead.
The Huskies scored on three straight drives in quick fashion – a 3-yard TD pass from Zappe to Jerreth Sterns capped a 7-play, 79-yard drive that lasted 1:31 to cut the lead to 42-30.
Zappe connected with Terry Tillmon on a 41-yard TD strike on the next HBU drive, which went four plays for 70 yards in two minutes, to cut the lead to 42-37, and LaDarius Dickens had a 1-yard TD run to close out an 11-play, 75-yard drive that put the Huskies ahead 45-42 with 14:55 to go in the game.
“When you’re going uptempo, you can get guys out of position, and we had some breakdowns,” Scelfo said. “When those things happen, then big plays take place. We had some missed tackles. Those things happen. We don’t get a guy over the top of a deep ball. Those things happen. When things like that take place, you end up with some big plays.”
SLU (3-4, 3-2 Southland Conference) knotted the game at 45-45 on Jonathan Tatum’s 42-yard field goal with 13:38 to play and claimed a 48-45 lead with eight minutes left on Tatum’s 20-yard field goal.
Julius Maracalin (5 carries, 32 yards) and Johnson (3-18 yards) were the catalysts on the go-ahead drive, while Virgil also hit Turner on a 20-yard pass to midfield.
“They had a lot of holes open,” said Maracalin, who finished with 69 yards on 14 carries in his first action of the season after undergoing offseason ankle surgery in helping the Lions rush for a season-high 184 yards. “I left a lot of things on the table, too. They had a couple of ones I could have busted for touchdowns, so I’ve got to get in and watch film and get better.”
That enabled HBU (1-5, 0-4) to put together another uptempo 10-play, 73-yard drive that was capped by Zappe’s 8-yard TD pass to Sterns for a 52-48 lead with 5:16 to play.
Sterns finished with nine receptions for 110 yards and two TDs, while Zappe went 29-for-46 for 342 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
The teams traded punts before Williams’ punt return set up the finish.
The game looked like anything but the shootout it turned into early on as SLU had a 13-play, 56-yard scoring drive on its first possession, converting on on fourth-and-inches at the HBU 36 on Johnson’s 5-yard run. Virgil later hit Nih-Jer Jackson on a 14-yard pass, setting up Williams’ 11-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Zeke Walker intercepted Zappe, returning the pick 33 yards to put the Lions up 14-0.
A 22-yard punt to close out the next HBU drive set the Lions up at the HBU 45. Virgil hit Juwan Petit-Frere for 11 yards, and Williams fought for yardage on a 21-yard pass from Virgil to the HBU 4. Two plays later, Virgil found Bransen Schwebel on a 4-yard TD for a 21-0 lead.
The Lions got their second defensive TD of the half on the next drive when Tre’ Spann returned a Zappe interception 50 yards for a 28-0 lead with 14:51 to go in the first half.
“Throughout the game, our corners were playing cover 3 and we saw that they were throwing a little short hitch route … so we had called a corner blitz on the boundary,” Spann said of the interception. “DJ (Dejion Lynch) did a great job of showing that the blitz was coming, so they thought that I was going to be playing back. It was just a squat. I came down and squatted and took it from there.”
HBU got a 36-yard field goal from Tyler Blanchard to cap an 11-play, 66-yard drive to cut the lead to 28-3, and Caleb Johnson’s 18-yard return of a Williams fumble for a touchdown made the score 28-10 with 8:01 to play in the first half.
The Lions followed with a nine-play, 66-yard drive on which Virgil was 4-for-5 for 49 yards, capped by a 16-yard TD pass to Jake Ingraffia – the first of his career – for a 35-10 lead.
That lead wasn’t safe as the Huskies responded with a pair of touchdowns in a span of 18 seconds -- the first when Sterns hit a wide open Tillmon on a 42-yard TD pass, and the second when Kyle Bowling returned a Virgil interception 18 yards for a score, cutting the lead to 35-23 with 1:05 left in the first half.
“I saw they were running like a Tampa 2 coverage,” Virgil said of the interception. “All week, we had been talking about (how) we need to go to the hitch side if we get that coverage. (I) just threw it blindly, and the guy just jumped in front of it. He made a great play – read my eyes and just picked it.”
The Lions just missed adding to the lead when Turner was stopped at the HBU 3 on the last play of the first half after hauling in a 32-yard pass from Virgil.
“I’m extremely – I’m not going to say proud -- because I’m not sure that’s the right word, but I’m excited about where we’re going and where we are,” Scelfo said. “We’re winning games and not playing our best, and there’s a lot of room to grow. For that, I’m excited about it. So when you look back at this game, is this a turning point? I don’t know. I want to play better the next week than what we did today, and if we do that, we’ll be fine and we want to continue to grow each week.”
SLU 62, HOUSTON BAPTIST 52
HBU – 0 23 14 15 – 52 (1-5, 0-4 SLC)
SLU – 21 14 7 20 – 62 (3-4, 3-2 SLC)
SLU – D. Williams 11 run (Tatum kick), 6:31
SLU – Z. Walker 33 interception return (Tatum kick), 5:43
SLU – Schwebel 4 pass from Nunez (Tatum kick), 1:27
SLU – Spann 50 interception return (Tatum kick), 14:51
HBU – Blanchard 36 FG, 11:15
HBU – Johnson 18 fumble return (Blanchard kick), 8:01
SLU – Ingraffia 16 pass from Virgil (Tatum kick), 4:27
HBU – Tillmon 42 pass from Stearns (Blanchard kick blocked), 1:23
HBU – Bowling 35 interception return (Blanchard kick), 1:05
SLU – D. Johnson 6 run (Tatum kick), 12:57
HBU – Sterns 3 pass from Zappe (Blanchard kick), 8:07
HBU – Tillmon 41 pass from Zappe (Blanchard kick), 4:35
HBU – Dickens 1 run (J. Johnson pass from Zappe), 14:55
SLU – Tatum 42 FG, 13:38
SLU – Tatum 20 FG, 8:00
HBU – Sterns 8 pass from Zappe (Blanchard kick), 5:16
SLU – Turner 15 pass from Virgil (Tatum kick), 0:40
SLU – Lewis 38 fumble return (Tatum kick), 0:16
FIRST DOWNS 26 22
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 35-128 46-184
PASSING YDS (NET) 384 246
Passes Att-Comp-Int 47-30-3 36-21-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 82-512 82-430
Fumble Returns-Yards 1-18 1-38
Kickoff Returns-Yards 9-171 6-94
Punt Returns-Yards 2-11 2-62
Interception Returns-Yards 1-35 3-83
Punts (Number-Avg) 5-38.6 5-39.6
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 7-65 8-76
Possession Time 27:34 32:26
Third-Down Conversions 9-of-16 9-of-19
Fourth-Down Conversions 0-of-1 1-of-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 4-4 6-7
RUSHING: HBU – Dickens 16-97, Zappe 12-23, Sterns 1-5, Lewis 6-3. Totals – 35-128. SLU – D. Johnson 21-127, Maracalin 14-69, D. Williams 5-21, Nunez 1-(-8), Virgil 5-(-25). Totals – 46-184.
PASSING: HBU – Zappe 29-46-3-342-3, Sterns 1-1-0-42-1. Totals 30-47-3-384-4. SLU – Virgil 19-34-1-240-2, Nunez 2-2-0-6-1. Totals 21-36-1-246-3.
RECEIVING: HBU – Sterns 9-110, Brito 5-58, Racine 4-43, Smith 4-27, Tillmon 3-108, Sexton 2-18, Robinson 1-18, Ceniceros 1-7, Hooks 1-(-5). Totals – 30-384. SLU – Turner 4-92, Jackson 3-42, Tolbert 3-28, D. Williams 2-26, Ingraffia 2-25, Schwebel 2-16, Petit-Frere 2-13, Maracalin 2-1, Nunez 1-3. Totals 21-246.
A – 6,023.