SLU Nicholls Nolan Givan

Southeastern wide receiver Nolan Givan finds an opening in the Nicholls defense Thursday at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond.

HAMMOND -- It’s been quite the range of the emotions for the Southeastern Louisiana University football team over the past few days, but some of these guys have been here before.

The Lions dropped a 45-42 decision to Nicholls State last Thursday in the River Bell Classic, with Mateo Rengifo missing a late 44-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game. A win would have given Southeastern at least a share of the Southland Conference championship.

From there, the Lions went into waiting mode to see if they would be part of the FCS playoff field.

On Sunday, the team learned it will be hosting Florida A&M at 6 p.m. Saturday at Strawberry Stadium to open the postseason. The Lions (8-3) are ranked 17th in the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll and 18th in the Stats Perform FCS Polls, while Florida A&M (9-2), ranked No. 22 in both polls.

Southeastern Louisiana University football coach Frank Scelfo discusses the loss to Nicholls as the Lions head into the first round of the FCS playoffs hosting Florida A&M.

“It’s kind of like it was in (2019),” Scelfo said during his weekly media luncheon Monday. “Same thing, huge disappointment here on Thursday night against Nicholls, and then ‘Boom!’ You wake up on Sunday and you get to go to the selection show and you get picked. It’s just an awesome feeling. For our players to be able to experience that again is pretty good. Everybody was on pins and needles. Nobody told us before if we were going to get in or not. We didn’t know if we were getting in. We thought our resume was good enough. When you have three, three-point losses, you’ve got eight FCS wins. All of those things should have lent itself to get in, and it did, but there’s no guarantees.”

Scelfo said it helped the Lions that some playoff bubble teams lost over the weekend.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at www.kajun107.net.

In looking back at the Nicholls game, Scelfo lamented missed opportunities by the Lions, who were outscored 17-0 in the third quarter.

“The Nicholls game, to me, was extremely disappointing, and a lot of it had to do with Nicholls,” Scelfo said. “I think they controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage. They were able to run the ball at will on us, and then we struggled to run the ball against them. I think it showed us where we were deficient in the game. We haven’t been like that all year long, and we were that the other night, for us to have to be able to do better in that situation when we knew they were going to run the football and couldn’t stop them. That was disappointing, but I think we had some opportunities throughout the course of the game.”

Nicholls added another wrinkle by starting Kohen Granier at quarterback over Lindsey Scott. Granier went 9-for-21 for 182 yards and a touchdown passing, while Scott was 8-for-13 for 70 yards.

“I didn’t see it coming, to tell you the truth, but we had to prepare for both,” Scelfo said. “We thought we might see Scott more, and the first quarter, that’s not what we saw. We saw Granier the whole time. When they changed up, we had a couple of things in place. It’s tough preparing for two guys who are completely different, but that’s not what cost us. What cost us was their offensive line beating us up on the line of scrimmage, beating up our defensive front seven guys on the line of scrimmage. That’s what cost us in that game.”

Nicholls’ Collin Guggenheim ran for 266 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries as the Colonels rolled up 292 yards rushing.

“It wasn’t personnel,” Scelfo said. “We just didn’t play hard. We didn’t play well enough up front. Our safeties didn’t fill. Our backers didn’t fill, and our defensive line didn’t get off of blocks. We just didn’t play well enough. They did a good job and everything, but schematically, there wasn’t anything new that was thrown at us. That’s what was disappointing about not getting it done.

“There were some assignment issues also, guys jumping out of gaps and stuff like that,” Scelfo continued. “I don’t think the effort was bad. I just think we didn’t play physical. We played soft, and I was disappointed in that because we have been playing physical up front the entire season. People have run the ball against us, but it’s not because we were getting pushed off of the ball. We got pushed off the ball the other night.”

Scelfo also noted all three of the Lions’ losses this season have been by three points.

"We’ve got to figure out a way to win a three-point game,” he said.

Kelley among Payton Award finalists

Lions quarterback Cole Kelley was one of 25 finalists for the 2021 Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award announced Monday by Stats Perform.

Kelley won the award, presented to the national offensive player of the year in FCS, in the spring.

This season, Kelley has thrown for 4,382 yards, 38 touchdowns and six interceptions going 339-for-457 passing (74.2 percent) and rushing for 16 touchdowns.

Heading into the postseason, Kelley is the national leader in passing yards, total offense (438.5 ypg), points responsible for (326), passing efficiency (179.5) and completion percentage and is the lone player in the nation in the top 10 in both passing and rushing touchdowns.

Kelley wrapped up the regular season as the program’s single-season and career record holder in rushing touchdowns (33 – career, 16 - season), total touchdowns scored (35/16), passing yards (7,860/4,382), passing touchdowns (66/38), touchdowns responsible for (101/54) and total offense (8,561/4,824).

Southeastern leads the nation in total offense (567.0 ypg), scoring offense (48.0 ppg), completion percentage (73.9) and first downs (328).

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