LU Cards return to road to challenge highly-reg
Now that the glitz, glamour and hoopla of playing Lamar University’s first two football games since 1989 have subsided, coach Ray Woodard and his players hope to settle into more of a routine atmosphere for the remainder of their season.
They’ll begin assuming that posture Saturday when they return to the road to challenge Southeastern Louisiana at 6 p.m. in Hammond’s 7,408-seat Strawberry Stadium.
The Cardinals reached the breakeven mark in their opening two games Saturday night when they held off a determined Webber International team 21-14 before an overflow crowd of 16,600 in the debut of recently-renovated Provost Umphrey Stadium.
Quarterback Andre Bevil threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns in the Webber game, making amends for his three turnovers (two lost fumbles and an interception). The junior from West Orange-Stark by way of Navarro College completed 16 of 34 attempts, including scoring strikes of 25 yards to J.J. Hayes, 57 yards to Kendrick Prejean and 8 yards to Billy Chavis.
In Southeastern Louisiana, the Cardinals will be facing a squad that also sports a 1-1 record. After dropping their season opener 27-21 at Tulane, the Lions bounced back Saturday night with a 24-10 home victory over Tennessee Martin.
“I didn’t know that much about Southeastern Louisiana prior to going to Lake Charles (for the Southland Conference Media Days in late July),” said Woodard. “That’s when I learned they (the Lions) were picked near the top (actually third) in the preseason polls.
“When I turned on the video Monday, I saw why. They have very good team speed. Both quarterbacks (Brian Young and Gavin Webster) do good jobs of running the offense.
“Both running backs (Zeke Jones and Sam Fairley) are skillful at running the ball up and down the field, and they have some quality receivers and good, experienced linemen up front. I don’t see any weak areas on offense.”
“Both the 6-foot, 240-pound Jones and the 5-9, 180-pound Fairley posted 108-yard rushing totals in the Lions’ home opener, Jones on 17 carries and Fairley on 15. Young, a 6-2, 220-pound sophomore, completed 18 of 38 passes for 148 yards, while Brandon Collins and Simmie Yarborough snared six passes each, Collins for 60 yards and Yarborough for 39.
“It’s going to be easy to motivate our players by just turning on the tape and showing them what they’re going to be up against,” said Woodard. “Defensively, they created a lot of turnovers in last week’s game, and Tommy Connors (the Lions’ senior strong safety) is having an all-conference, All-America type of season already.”
The Lions yielded a 525-395-yard edge in total offense to Tennessee Martin, but they compensated for it by coming up with five turnovers. They picked off four passes, including one returned 12 yards by Connors for their final touchdown. Connors also had a 13-yard interception return, and free safety Re’Keem Wilson and right cornerback Clint Coleman had the other picks.
For his efforts, which also included eight tackles (seven solos) and two pass breakups, Connors was a repeat winner of the SLC Defensive Player of the Week honor.
As an unclassified member of the Football Championship Subdivision this season, Lamar is ineligible for team or individual ranking in either the SLC or NCAA FCS weekly statistical reports. If that was not the case, however, the Cardinals would have one first and four second-place team rankings in this week’s SLC stats, and they would have four individual first-place rankings.
The Cardinals’ 327.0-yard passing average is better than that of any of the other eight league members, and their 400.0-yard total offense average is second best as are their averages for passing defense, passing efficiency and kickoff returns.
Bevil, who is averaging 327.0 yards per game passing and 343.0 yards in total offense, would rank first in the league in both categories. Other would-be, top individual rankings for the Cardinals this week are wideout Marcus Jackson’s 97.5-yard receiving average, J.J. Hayes’ average of 6.5 catches per game and Justin Stout’s 100 percent rating on field goals.
This will be only the third meeting between Lamar and SLU in football. The schools have traded home victories with the Cardinals prevailing 34-21 in Beaumont in 1967 and the Lions winning a 21-19 squeaker two years later in Hammond.
After Saturday’s game, the Cardinals will go on the road again next Saturday night to oppose longtime rival Stephen F. Austin State. The Lumberjacks, who are 1-1 after a 59-14 victory over Albany last week, are ranked 10th in this week’s The Sports Network FCS Top 25 Poll.
The Cardinals’ next home game in Provost Umphrey Stadium will be against Sam Houston State on Oct. 2.