HAMMOND – The Southeastern Louisiana football team has an unplanned open date thanks to Hurricane Dorian after the Lions’ scheduled game with Bethune-Cookman, located in Daytona Beach, Fla., was canceled Monday because of the expected after-effects of the storm, but the Lions won’t be sitting around this week.
“That’s a tough situation on everybody, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to take care of your community and your players,” Southeastern coach Frank Scelfo said Tuesday during his weekly media luncheon. “We’ll just prepare this week, go back to kind of a training camp practice-type format … really pound on the fundamentals, not much game-planning that will take place, and then start moving toward Ole Miss towards the end of the week and over the weekend.”
Scelfo said the Lions will maintain their normal practice schedule this week before taking Saturday off and coming back Sunday to begin preparing for Ole Miss on Sept. 14.
Southeastern quarterback Chason Virgil exited the Lions’ 35-14 win then-No. 6 Jacksonville State in the third quarter after sustaining an injury to his left shoulder while losing a fumble. He went 11-for-24 for 164 yards and a touchdown and was replaced by Arkansas transfer Cole Kelley, who went 5-for-9 for 74 yards and two TDs.
“He’s good,” Scelfo said of Virgil. “I think that was a medical decision not to put him back in, but he’ll bounce back this week. He should be able to practice and be ready to go for the Ole Miss game.”
Southeastern jumped to No. 23 in the STATS FCS Poll – the first time since SLU has been ranked since 2015, when the Lions were No. 23 in the STATS poll and No. 21 in the FCS Coaches poll.
SLU picked up 59 points in the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll, just outside the Top 25.
“I think it’s good for the university,” Scelfo said of being ranked. “I feel like it’s good for us, our brand. Any type of notoriety you get is going to be good, but it can’t become a part of who we are, because as quick as it was here today, it’ll be gone tomorrow if we don’t take care of the things that we can take care of on the field.”
Setting the tone
Maybe no play was more indicative of the way things worked out for the Lions against Jacksonville State than the first one of the game, when linebacker Mike Mason came untouched on a blitz, dropping JSU quarterback Zerrick Cooper for a five-yard loss.
Mason led the Lions with 11 tackles, while fellow linebacker Alexis Ramos had three tackles, including 1.5 for 10 yards in losses.
“Sometimes you can’t simulate things in practice,” Scelfo said of Mason. “He made a couple of plays that we couldn’t simulate either through the personnel or the scheme or whatever, and it was really impressive to watch him go. He played hard. He was physical and did everything he needed to do. Zeke (Jenkins) was in the right place all the time. We need to make more plays.
“Alexis probably had a little more production even though he played less than Zeke, so that will be an interesting battle in the next week or so to see how that thing plays out between those two guys …”
Cleaning things up
In addition to the number put up by Virgil and Kelley, seven players combined to rush for 146 yards on 30 carries, led by Virgil (3 carries, 37 yards) and Devonte Williams (12-37), but Scelfo is looking for improvement in both areas.
“I think our passing game has got to be more effective,” Scelfo said. “We should have been able to throw the ball a little bit better than what we did. Give Jacksonville State a lot of credit. They did a great job. They’ve got an experienced secondary that came back and did a nice job of covering us …”
“I thought we could have run the ball a little bit better. I think there were a couple of times we missed a cut or two (or) we just missed a block, so that will come as we go through.”
The Lions surrendered 481 yards on 77 plays to the Gamecocks, and Scelfo praised the team’s pass rush and coverage in the secondary, which resulted in six sacks, but said a point of emphasis this week will be tackling better.
“I thought we played really well on defense, but I think our tackling left a little bit to be desired,” he said. “We missed some tackles out in the open field. We had a chance to get some guys down and didn’t do it. We didn’t wrap up.”
Special teams breakdown
Freshman Austin Dunlap averaged 36 yards on five punts against Jacksonville State, including three downed inside the 20.
“That’s something you don’t normally see from a freshman,” Scelfo said. “That’s normally an older guy. Freshmen, those guys are just punting it, trying to get it out of there. He strategically placed the ball. It was great to see.”
Former Live Oak standout Nathan Holliday averaged 60 yards on six kickoffs for the Lions, while former Central standout Bryce Broussard was 5-for-5 on PATs.
“Our specialists, those are new guys,” Scelfo said. “All those guys did a good job for us, and it was good to see.”