HAMMOND -- Maybe it was the 10 a.m. kickoff. Maybe it was the threat of Hurricane Nate. Maybe it was none of the above.
Whatever it was, Southeastern Louisiana football coach Ron Roberts will take the Lions' 49-30 win over Incarnate Word last Saturday at Strawberry Stadium, even if it wasn't textbook.
"We found a way to get the W, which was huge," Roberts said Tuesday. "Any time you get a conference win and you don’t feel like you played really well, it’s a huge asset."
Roberts pointed to the 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Incarnate Word's Desmond Hite and the blocked punt the Lions gave up to the Cardinals, which resulted in a Cardinal field goal.
"Those are things that we can’t do on a week-in and week-out basis and have success," Roberts said. "We look forward to our guys going back to the drawing board and getting better."
The Lions get that chance Saturday at Houston Baptist. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Roberts said the punt block came from a breakdown in protection.
"We just missed it," Roberts said. "We had two guys – our shield didn’t come together. One of them turned his shoulders and hit another guy, opened the gate. They rushed two guys. We’ve just got to do better than that."
Roberts is also hoping to see improvement from punter Ivy Wall, who is last in the Southland Conference, averaging 38.3 yards per punt. In addition to the blocked punt, Wall had a 21-yard effort against the Cardinals.
"He’s kind of struggled the last two weeks, so hopefully we’ll get him out of that," said Roberts, who also praised Wall for pinning the Cardinals at their own 1 with a punt later in the game.
Southeastern kickoff returner Juwan Petit-Frere leads the nation in kickoff return average at 39.6 yards per return, including a 99-yard return for a TD against Incarnate Word that helped net him Southland Conference and Louisiana Sports Writers Association Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Roberts, however said it's getting to the point that Petit-Frere doesn't have to touch the ball to make a difference in the return game.
"It’s a huge asset, a huge weapon," Roberts said. "It’s huge because when they pooch it, you start seeing the field position throughout the game. They start giving the ball. They pooch it to the 30, you return it to the 40. You’re starting a drive with the offense and the ball at the 40-yard line is pretty huge."
Making a name for himself
Austin Mitchell came into Saturday's game with 4 receptions for 103 yards and a healthy 25.8 yards-per-catch average. He finished the game with 4 catches for 143 yards and 3 TDs, including a 70-yarder from QB Lorenzo Nunez.
"They were really good on run defense, and they were kind of loading up in front to stop that," Roberts said of the Cardinals. "We knew we’d have plays on the perimeter, in the option game, and we knew we’d have some opportunities to hit them down field with the pass. Austin’s really fast, so any time we get the right matchup, and they match him up on a safety or something, that’s a mismatch. Every week, you try to get him in those situations where he’s matched up because he does provide you with that big-play opportunity."
Taking the gamble
The Lions are tied for 4th in the Southland Conference in fourth-down conversions (50%, 7-for-14), including 1-for-3 against Incarnate Word.
Roberts said there are a number of factors that go into deciding whether or not the Lions go for it on fourth down, including distance and game flow. But more often than not the team has to have crossed midfield before Roberts gives the green light.
"Generally speaking, the majority of the time for me, I’ve always been that way, is that when we cross midfield, you want to try be in a four-down territory," Roberts said. "You want to play the game aggressive. If you can, you need to convert. If you’re not converting, it kind of hurts you on field position huge.
"I like to go for those things and play aggressive because you keep the football and you stay on the field. Most of the time when you convert at midfield, those drives usually turn into points."
Taking in the game
Saturday's game will be broadcast on The Southeastern Channel in the Hammond area, with live video also available at Southland.org/live video.
Live audio is available on LionSports.net/listenlive and on the radio on KSLU-FM 90.9, Kajun 107.1-FM, The Highway 104.7-FM and WFPR 1400-AM.
Live stats are also available at LionSports.net.