2023 Southeastern Louisiana Lions Football Season Recap

Credit to Corey Perrillioux for the photo

As many of you know, the SLU Lions football season came to a little more than a week ago, as the Lions fell to the Nicholls Colonels in the annual River Bell Classic. SLU finishes 3-8, 3-4 in Southland Conference play, and will not earn a playoff birth for the first season since 2018 (not including the Spring 2021 Covid season). Coming off of a conference championship in 2022, expectations were high for the Lions to repeat, but something went wrong along the way to cause an 0-7 start before finishing out the season strong. There were a lot of positive and bright moments throughout the season, though, and I’m here to talk about those and not dwell so much on the negatives.

Below, you will find a short summary of every game the Lions played:

*denotes away game

*Mississippi State

SLU opened up 2023 in Starkville, with low expectations against an SEC team. Nobody expected the Lions to win, but to possibly keep the game close for a bit and put up a decent fight. That’s exactly what SLU did, keeping the score close until midway through the second quarter, where the Bulldog offense found another gear and took off. The score showed 48-7 at the end of regulation, but the game was closer than what the scoreboard read. We saw transfers Zachary Clement and Harlan Dixon make their debuts and help lead the offense, although Eli Sawyer saw the majority of reps under center. Clement through a short touchdown to Jacob Logan, the only scoring play of the game for SLU, in the second quarter.

*South Alabama

The Lions took another road trip, this time to Mobile, with a better chance than against MSU, but not great. USA was the 2022 SBC runner-ups, and coming off of a 10-win season. SLU kept this matchup closer than possibly expected, and lost by a margin of 35-17. Clement played well, completing seventy-five percent of his passes for over 250 yards. The Lions actually scored first, with Clement finding Ivan Drobocky for a touchdown catch. The score was 7-7 at halftime, but as these FCS vs. FBS games usually go, the FBS team pulled away in the second half. Still, things were looking great for the team, as they performed at worst as expected so far.

*Eastern Washington

This was the first game the Lions were favored in. EWU is a historically solid program, with a national championship victory in 2010 and another appearance in 2018. EWU only went 4-7 in 2023, but one of those wins came against SLU, 40-29. The offense made some mistakes, and couldn’t reel EWU back in, and walked away from this game, which they were favored in, losing by 11. EWU will travel to Hammond next season to complete the home-and-home, so the Lions have a chance to avenge their loss this season.

Houston Christian

The Lions opened up both their home schedule and Southland schedule with a matchup against Houston Christian University, formally Houston Baptist. Colby Suits suited up at quarterback for the Huskies, after transferring from SLU over the offseason. In a game in which the Lions were favored by almost 30, the Husky offense torched the Lion defense en route to a 34-19 win and 549 total yards of offense. HCU took an early lead and never looked back, taking a 24-13 lead into the half. SLU brought the game within five before HCU scored ten unanswered and won.

Tarleton State

The Lions played their second home game and their last OOC game against Tarleton State. Both teams scored in the first quarter, with TSU leading 14-7 after the first. Neither team scored again until with around five minutes left in regulation, when the Lions did. The PAT was blocked, and Tarleton was able to run out the clock and take a 14-13 victory.

*Incarnate Word

SLU traveled to San Antonio to face UIW. The game started off slow for the Lions, down 24-6 at halftime. SLU brought it back in the second half, losing by only seven at 33-26, but the late surge wasn’t enough as SLU lost their sixth straight to open the season. This game was the most one quarterback played over the other, as Clement only through one pass against Sawyer’s 40. With a losing season now guaranteed, the Lions returned home for their third game in Hammond in four weeks.


Lamar started out the season rough, but continuously improved. After a 10-10 tie at the end of one, Lamar ran away with the game in the second, scoring 20 unanswered en route to a 30-10 lead at the halftime break. SLU scored seven in each of the second half quarters, and held Lamar scoreless, but this late surge was again not enough as Lamar took a 30-24 victory. This game saw Eli Sawyer take a huge hit at the end of the last drive of the first half, and he did not return. Clement performed well, but it was too little, too late.

*Northwestern State

On just a couple days notice, the Demon-Lion matchup was moved up to Thursday, so Demon players could attend teammate Ronnie Caldwell’s funeral on Saturday. Clement received the start against his former squad, and lit it up, throwing for nearly 200 yards and rushing for 53 more with a touchdown. The rest of the offense executed as well, and the Lions were able to pull away from a halftime score of 21-17 and win by a score of 37-20. Victor Tademy recorded a long pick-six in the second half, and the defense looked as stout as ever in the second half. The losing streak was over, and the Lions took their bye week the following week.

McNeese State

This was the first game of the season in which one of the quarterbacks did not appear, as Eli Sawyer never saw the field. He wasn’t needed, though, as the offense continued their way of scoring points, outdueling the Cowboys 38-24. Clement ran for 114 yards and Rodeo Graham Jr rushed for three touchdowns, while Tademy recorded an interception for the second straight week. The winning streak was on, and the Lions traveled to Texas for their final away matchup of 2023.

*Texas A&M – Commerce

SLU shined bright in this game, running away with this ballgame early and with authority. 38-0 was the score at one point, and 52-14 was the final score. Dixon ran for three touchdowns and totaled 162 scrimmage yards. The defense also stepped up, recording five takeaways, including Tademy recording an interception in his third straight game. Donte’ Daniels, Coryell Pierce, and Blayne Delahoussaye also recorded interceptions, and Shemar Pearl recovered a fumble. This was the best SLU performance in nearly all aspects of the game, and with a three-game winning streak, morale was high heading into the River Bell Classic.

Nicholls (River Bell Classic)

The final game of 2023 was, of course, the yearly Nicholls matchup for the River Bell trophy. Played on Thursday, as is tradition, the game was close, but the Colonels prevailed in the end, winning by a score of 21-16. Clement was held to under 100 yards of passing while Pat McQuaide hit 300 yards for Nicholls, but the Lion defense kept them in this game. Riley Callaghan hit 3 field goals, and the Lions scored a touchdown off of a fake field goal by Justin Dumas, but the Colonel defense held their own and took the River Bell trophy back to Thibodeaux for the first time since 2021.

Eight Lions took home conference honors, and you can read about them here!

Here are the 2023 cumulative stats!