Southeastern Lions beat Nicholls State 62-3 for share of Southland Title
The No. 10 Southeastern Louisiana football team earned its second straight Southland Conference championship with a 62-3 victory over Nicholls in the River Bell Classic Thursday night in Guidry Stadium.
Southeastern (9-3, 7-1 Southland) earned its second straight league title behind a dominant effort over the host Colonels (0-12, 0-8 Southland). The Lions racked up 633 total yards and held its third straight league opponent to a single-digit scoring output.
With the win, Southeastern all but assures the Lions a berth in the 24-team Division I playoff field, which will be announced on Sunday at 10 a.m. on ESPNU. The back-to-back league titles are the program's first since winning consecutive Gulf States Conference titles in 1960-61.
A Sam Houston State loss to Central Arkansas or a Northwestern win over Stephen F. Austin will give Southeastern the automatic bid into the playoffs. No matter the outcome of Saturday's contests, the Lions' second straight Southland title and a top 10 national ranking will give the Lions a playoff bid.
"We knew we would have the bulls-eye on our back throughout the season, so this one was harder than last year," Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. "We really like where we're at as a football team right now and we feel like we could be poised to have a nice run in the playoffs."
Southeastern senior Devante Scott led the Lion offense with career high totals of seven catches for 196 yards, as senior Jordan Barnett (12-for-19, 193 yards, two touchdowns), senior Bryan Bennett (2-for-8, 81 yards, 1 TD) and sophomore D'Shaie Landor (1-for-2, 46 yards) combined for 320 yards through the air. Scott, senior Blane Arnold and sophomore Jarrell Bennett each caught touchdown passes for the Lions.
Bryan Bennett's touchdown pass was his 39th of his career. His pass touchdown total combined with his 29 rushing touchdowns give him 68 touchdowns accounted for as a Lion, tying the career mark held by former SLU quarterback Martin Hankins.
The Lions also padded its rushing stats with 313 yards on the ground. Senior Marquis Hayes led SLU with 119 yards rushing on six carries. Junior Rasheed Harrell led Southeastern with two rushing touchdowns, while Hayes, Landor and Barnett each rushed for a score as well.
The SLU defense limited Nicholls to 279 total yards and has now allowed just 19 points in its last three games. Senior linebacker and Buck Buchanan Award candidate Isiah Corbett intercepted his team-high fourth pass of the season, while freshman Ryan Sigers also recorded a pick.
The Lions combined to harass senior quarterbacks Beaux Hebert and Kaelyn Henderson into a combined 12-for-28 passing for 157 yards and two interceptions. Senior Justin Church led Southeastern with two sacks, while juniors Herbert Harris and Aaron Price also has sacks. Harris and senior Drew Misita led the Lions with eight tackles apiece, while Church finished with a team-high three tackles for loss.
The lone bright spot for NSU was the play of junior running back Michael Henry, who finished with a team-high 118 yards on 27 carries. Henry finished the season with 1,005 yards and became the third Colonel in school history to top 1,000 career rushing yards.
Nicholls took the early lead on a game-opening 10-play, 44-yard drive. Junior Francisco Condado capped the opening march with a 40-yard field goal to put the Colonels up, 3-0, with 10:38 remaining in the opening quarter.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Scott caught a bubble screen from Bryan Bennett and raced 77 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 6:15 left in the opening quarter.
Southeastern had another prime opportunity to add to its lead when Corbett intercepted Henderson and returned the ball to the Colonel five-yard line. However, Landor was stopped short on fourth and goal to give NSU the ball back.
However, Church's pick and run would lead to a Lion scoring play. With Nicholls under the shadow of its own goal posts, Church busted through with a sack of Henderson for a safety and a 9-3 lead with 12:09 left in the second quarter.
After the two teams exchanged punts, Southeastern took over at the Nicholls 36-yard line. A 20-yard run by Hayes set up a three-yard run by Harrell. Sophomore Cole LeBlanc ran in the two-point conversion to give the Lions a 17-3 lead with 7:40 left in the opening half.
Southeastern forced another three-and-out and further added to its lead on the next drive. Barnett bulled in from two yards out to cap an eight-play, 47-yard drive and extend the Lion lead to 24-3 with 2:49 left in the opening half.
The Lion defense gave Southeastern another scoring opportunity late in the second quarter, as Sigers' second interception of the game set up the Lions in Nicholls territory. A 33-yard field goal by senior Ryan Adams - his 15th of the year and 11th straight make - sent Southeastern to the break with a 27-3 lead.
Southeastern took the opening kick of the second half 54 yards on six plays. Arnold took in a Barnett pass and raced in from 10 yards out for his first career touchdown and a 34-3 lead with 12:26 left in the third quarter.
Barnett hit junior Trey Hallman on a 34-yard pass on a fake punt on the next SLU drive. On the next play, Landor raced in from nine yards out to give the Lions a 41-3 advantage with 7:40 left in the third quarter.
Nicholls moved deep into Southeastern territory on its ensuing drive. However, sophomore Derrick Raymond batted away a Beaux Hebert pass to keep the lead 41-3 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.
Five plays later, Jarrell Bennett hauled in a 32-yard pass from Barnett to cap a five-play, 93-yard scoring march and give Southeastern a 48-3 lead with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
Nicholls again moved deep into SLU territory but a sack by Harris and a pass break up by junior Denzel Thompson allowed Southeastern to take over on downs. On the next play, Hayes broke a speed sweep for 88 yards and gave the Lions a 55-3 advantage with 14:12 left in the contest.
After another defensive stop, Landor hit Scott on a 46-yard bomb. Landor's throw set up Harrell's second touchdown run of the game to give SLU a 62-3 lead with 7:10 left.