Football Set to Tangle with Lions

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University football team returns to action Saturday for a Southland Conference showdown against Southeastern Louisiana. The Cardinals (0-3/0-1 SLC) enter the contest coming off their open week looking for their first victory of the season, while SLU (1-2/1-0 SLC) ended a two-game slide last week with a 34-24 victory at Northwestern State.

The Cardinals are out to their first 0-3 start since bringing back the program but LU has faced not only one of its toughest schedules in program history up to this point, but one of the toughest in the nation. All three of Big Red’s opponents have been ranked in the top 25, including two in the top 10 – No. 6 Houston and No. 3 Sam Houston State.

“It’s good to be back in action,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “We’ve had some very spirited practices getting prepared for this Saturday. Southeastern runs a lot of the same schemes as last year but they have a lot of new faces. They have 38 new players on the team this year and with that many it can be a good news bad news scenario. The bad news for them is it can take longer for things to come together, but the good news for Southeastern is they appeared to put it all together last week.”

The Lions are no strangers to tough schedules either opening the year with consecutive road games. SLU began 2016 at Oklahoma State before dropping a heartbreaking five-point decision, 28-23, at Southern Utah in the second week of the season. The Lions bounced back last week in their conference opener against Northwestern State.

“Southeastern just seems to get better every week,” said Woodard. They used their two non-conference games to prepare themselves for league play and they started the year 1-0. Southeastern is playing well right now. Coach Roberts has a talented team and they have every reason to feel confident about themselves.”.

Led by Rasheed Harrell and Kaelyn Henderson, Southeastern Louisiana brings one of the Southland’s strongest ground attacks to Beaumont. The Lions enter Saturday ranked fourth in the league averaging nearly 178 rushing yards per game. SLU is coming off a 288-yard performance on the ground against Northwestern State.

While the Cardinals enter the week ranked 11th in the Southland in rush defense, the Lions have struggled stopping the run in 2016 as well. The Lions enter the week ranked eighth in the league surrendering more than 205 yards per game and will be facing the reigning SLC Player of the Year in Kade Harrington. The Kingwood, Texas native leads Southland averaging 102 rushing yards per game.

Big Red enters the week as the conference’s top-ranked squad against the pass. The Cardinals are the lone Southland team surrendering fewer than 200 yards through the air (198.7 ypg). The Red and White also ranks second in the conference with three interceptions on the season. This should present an interesting matchup Saturday as Southeastern Louisiana enters the week as the league’s top ranked team in terms of pass efficiency.

Senior Justin Alo guides the Southeastern Louisiana offense. The Carson, Calif., native has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes for 620 yards and five touchdowns on the season, while averaging nearly 33 rushing yards per game. Alo’s favorite target is senior Brandon Acker (13 catches for 291 yards, 3 touchdowns).

LU junior quarterback Andrew Allen recorded his first career start for the Cardinals Saturday against Sam Houston State. The former New Mexico State transfer completed 19-of-36 (.528) passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 22 yards against the Bearkats’ defense.

One of the biggest questions for the Cardinals entering the year was who was going to step up at receiver. Sophomore Zae Giles may have sent an early answer to that questions against the Bearkats. Giles hauled in a career high seven passes for 93 yards and a score. Giles lone TD catch was a 56-yard strike from Allen to start the third quarter. It was the longest pass play of the season, and the first of Giles’ career.

“Obviously it starts with Kade Harrington, he is a great running back,” said SLU head coach Ron Roberts. “But they have good skill positions as well – big tight ends, receivers – it’s a very talented group. They have faced one heck of a schedule so far against three ranked opponents. I expect this to be like all other Southland games – very tough contest that comes down to the wire.”

Defensively, the Cardinals enter the second week of the conference schedule with four of the league’s top 10 tackle leaders, led by senior safety Xavier Bethany (10.7 tpg). Bethany currently ranks second in the Southland in total tackles.

Saturday’s game is slated for a 7 p.m. kick off from Provost Umphrey Stadium.