HAMMOND, La. – A game of big plays, momentum swings, missed opportunities and a 35-minute weather delay went against Lamar University as the Cardinals dropped a 49-21 decision at Southeastern Louisiana Saturday evening from Strawberry Stadium.
Saturday’s loss will be remembered for missed opportunities as the Cardinals forced two turnovers on Southeastern’s first two possessions, including the game’s opening kickoff only to fall behind early by 14 points. The two teams combined for nine turnovers, with the Cardinals forcing their hosts into five (three fumbles and two interceptions).
LU (1-3/0-2 Southland) finished the night with 513 yards of total offense, including 394 yards passing. The Lions recorded 555, including 366 rushing.
Junior quarterback Darrel Colbert jr. completed 19-of-39 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown but was also picked off three times. He also carried the ball 16 times for 41 yards and two scores. Colbert connected with eight different receivers including freshman Kirkland Banks who hauled in a career-high seven passes for 88 yards.
The Cardinals were led by eight tackles from Jaylon Bowden, Chaston Brooks and Tariq Gordon. All of eight of Gordon’s stops were unassisted.
The opening half was 30 minutes of big plays, turnovers and momentum swings. Big Red made the first big play on the game’s opening kickoff. The Lions’ Damien Dawson was rocked by senior Jaylon Bowden forcing the ball the loose. LU recovered the ball on the Lions’ 30 but the Cardinals were unable to take advantage being forced to attempt a 49-yard field goal that sailed just wide of the upright.
The Lions had to feel like they dodged a bullet but the Cardinals got the ball back five plays later when sophomore Caleb Abrom recorded his first career interception. Unfortunately, the Cardinals were unable to take advantage of the turnover punting the ball away eight plays later.
Southeastern was able to breakthrough on its next possession. SLU capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run from Juwan Maracalin. The score was setup by a 33-yard run from quarterback Lorenzo Nunez. The Lions tacked on another scored 16 second later after recovering a fumble on the ensuing kick. Nunez followed the fumble with a 19-yard rush for the score.
After being forced to punt on the next possession, the Cardinals came up with another big play defensively. Junior Chaston Brooks forced a fumble that was picked up by classmate Rodney Randle on the SLU 30. The Cardinals found the end zone four plays later when Colbert carried the ball in from nine yards out.
Momentum didn’t stay with the Cardinals long as Southeastern returned the kickoff 92 yards to set up another score. The Lions closed out the opening quarter with four yard pass from Nunez to Juwan Dickey to take a 21-7 advantage into the second quarter.
The game of momentum swings continued as the Cardinals quickly moved the ball down the field on their next possession. A six-play drive that took less than two minutes off the clock was capped by a 33-yard pass from Colbert to Isaiah Howard – his first career touchdown reception. Unfortunately, that was the last LU score as the Lions closed out the half with two more touchdowns, including one with 43 seconds remaining in the half to take a 35-14 lead into the locker room.
The Cardinals finished the opening 30 minutes with 182 yards of total offense, while the Lions recorded 287. The telling stat of the half was the turnover situation. The Lions threw an interception and had two fumbles. The Red and White had an interception and lost a fumble.
Southeastern Louisiana answered back just over seven minutes later with a 12-play drive that took more than five minutes off the clock. The drive, which ended with a four-yard TD run, was the longest drive of the opening half.
The Lions got the opening score of the second half with a seven-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a Darren Jones’ touchdown. LU answered right back with their longest drive through the first three quarters. Colbert orchestrated a 13-play, 66-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge from the junior QB for the score. The TD cut the Lions’ lead in half, 42-21, with 5:25 remaining in third quarter.
The Cardinals got the ball back and put together another long drive that had Big Red knocking on the door, but the drive ended on a fourth-and-goal play from the four yard line when Colbert’s pass to sophomore Zae Giles was picked off at the one yard line.
The close of the third quarter would bring another momentum swing, but this one would go in favor of Mother Nature as the game was delayed 35 minutes due to lightning. The Lions put together another drive which had SLU on the Cardinals’ five but LU forced another fumble to halt the drive. The Cardinals responded by driving the ball deep into SLU territory only to have their drive come to an end with an interception.
The Cardinals return to action Saturday, Sept. 30, when they host Nicholls. The game against the Colonels will kick off at 7 p.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium.