CONWAY, Ark. – The Southeastern Louisiana football team was dominant in every phase on the way to an overwhelming 34-0 road victory over No. 6/7 Central Arkansas in Southland Conference football action Saturday in Estes Stadium.
Southeastern (6-3, 5-2 Southland) held a UCA offense that came into the contest as one of the most prolific passing attacks in the FCS to 261 total yards on the way to the program’s first shutout victory since a 27-0 victory at Northwestern State on Nov. 6, 2009.
The victory allowed SLU to move into a four-way tie atop the league standings with the Bears, Nicholls and Sam Houston State.
“We played well and executed the game plan in every phase,” Southeastern coach Frank Scelfo said. “I love our team. We have a special group and I’m proud of how they responded today on the road against a very good football team.”
UCA (7-3, 5-2 Southland) had its four-game winning streak snapped, as the Lions earned their second victory over a top-10 program this season after defeating then-No.6 Jacksonville State, 35-14, in the season opener.
Cole Kelley sparked the Southeastern offense off the bench, as he (20-for-24, 273 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and Chason Virgil (8-for-11, 64 yards) fueled a Lion offense that posted 490 total yards and controlled the ball for over 38 minutes.
Kelley also rushed 15 times for 39 yards and four touchdowns – the most by a Lion since Jay Lucas found the end zone four times in a 79-7 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan on Sept. 15, 2007. Taron Jones led the SLU rushing attack with 69 yards on 16 carries.
Kelley and Virgil spread the ball around to eight different receivers, as Devonte Williams (six catches, 86 yards), Bransen Schwebel (6-74), Javon Conner (5-59-1 TD) and Austin Mitchell (5-55) all were big contributors in the passing game.
The Lions finished plus-two in the turnover margin in Saturday’s win, as Ferlando Jordan intercepted two passes and Shawntrez Spates also recorded an interception. J’vonte Powers recovered a fumble that was forced by Marcell Selmon Jr.
Xavier Lewis led SLU with eight tackles, as he and Will Douglas each collected sacks. Lewis, Douglas, Gladar Huszar, Alexis Ramos, Trae Drake, Josh Carr Jr., David Fields and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund each were credited with tackles for loss in the dominant defensive effort.
The Lion defense harassed UCA quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Breylin Smith, who came in ranked among the FCS national leaders in passing yards, completion percentage and passing touchdowns, to 193 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-39 passing.
The teams traded three-and-outs for the majority of the opening period before SLU broke through first as Kelley capped an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive with a nine-yard scoring run to put Southeastern ahead, 7-0, with 5:52 left in the opening quarter.
UCA, which was held without a first down on its opening three possessions, took the ball inside the Lion 10-yard line. On a third-and-inches at the SLU eight-yard line, Kierre Crossley was thrown for a loss by Huszar and Adeyemi-Berglund. The Bears lined up for a 27-yard field goal, but a bad snap threw off Hayden Ray’s timing and he pushed the short try wide left.
Southeastern took the opening drive of the second quarter 80 yards on nine plays to double its lead. A 22-yard end around to Conner and a 24-yard pass from Kelley to Mitchell set up a two-yard touchdown run by Kelley that gave SLU a 14-0 lead with 11:56 remaining in the half.
After SLU forced a UCA punt, the Lions took all but seven seconds of the first half off the clock with a methodical 16-play, 91-yard drive that took 8:45 off the clock. The key play was a 21-yard pass from Kelley to Marquis Williams to convert a fourth-and-eight. Facing fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line, the Lions elected to go for the touchdown. Kelley bulled in over the left side from two yards out to give Southeastern a 21-0 lead headed into the break.
Southeastern forced a UCA turnover on the second play of the third quarter to keep the Bears off the board. Spates recorded his second interception of the season as Ramos deflected a Smith pass into the hands of the SLU senior.
The Lions moved to the Bear three-yard line, however Kelley was stripped going into the end zone and UCA recovered to end Southeastern’s scoring threat.
On the next pass, Southeastern retook the momentum as Jordan stepped in front of a Smith pass for his team-high fourth interception of the season. Six plays later, Kelley found Conner for a six-yard touchdown throw to give SLU a 27-0 lead midway through the third quarter.
Southeastern closed out the scoring with just over 10 minutes remaining, as Virgil came back in to lead an eight-play, 75-yard scoring march. Kelley finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run and a 34-0 lead.
Central Arkansas had one last opportunity to spoil SLU’s shutout bid. However, Jordan intercepted Smith at the Lion 12-yard line to secure the team’s first shutout win in a decade.
Southeastern will close out its regular season road schedule next Saturday, facing Abliene Christian at 1 p.m. in Abilene, Texas. The game will be televised on ESPN+ 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 Lions Game Day and TuneIn Radio apps.
SOUTHEASTERN 34, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 0
SLU – 7 14 6 7 – 34 (6-3, 5-2 SLC)
UCA – 0 0 0 0 – 0 (7-3, 5-2 SLC)
SLU – C. Kelley 9 run (Broussard kick), 5:52
SLU – C. Kelley 2 run (Broussard kick), 11:56
SLU – C. Kelley 2 run (Broussard kick), 0:07
SLU – Conner 6 pass from C. Kelley (Broussard kick failed), 7:30
SLU – C. Kelley 2 run (Broussard kick), 10:12
FIRST DOWNS 26 13
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 46-153 21-68
PASSING YDS (NET) 337 193
Passes Att-Comp-Int 35-28-1 39-17-3
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 81-490 60-261
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 0-0 5-76
Punt Returns-Yards 1-21 1-1
Interception Returns-Yards 3-28 1-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 5-35.0 7-40.3
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 9-96 9-95
Possession Time. 38:08 21:52
Third-Down Conversions 2-of-12 5-of-14
Fourth-Down Conversions 3-of-3 0-of-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 5-6 0-1
RUSHING: SLU – T. Jones 16-69, C. Kelley 15-39, D. Williams 9-32, Conner 1-22, Mitchell 1-(-1), Team 3-(-3), Turner 1-(-5). Totals – 46-153. UCA – Fernandez 3-34, Blackman 6-16, Crossley 2-7, Richmond 1-7, Smith 9-4. Totals – 21-68.
PASSING: SLU – C. Kelley 20-24-1-273-1, Virgil 8-11-0-64-0. Totals – 28-35-1-337-1. UCA – Smith 17-39-3-193-0. Totals – 17-39-3-193-0.
RECEIVING: SLU – D. Williams 6-86, Schwebel 6-74, Conner 5-59, Mitchell 5-55, M. Williams 2-26, Turner 2-7, Magee 1-24, Nunez 1-6. Totals – 28-337. UCA – Blakley 4-42, Barnes 3-43, Crossley 2-22, Myers 2-16, Blackman 2-(-1), Hudson 1-25, Ross 1-17, Robinson 1-16, Hampton 1-13. Totals – 17-193.
A – 6.275.