HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana football team will open its 2016 home and Southland Conference schedules Saturday, hosting league foe Northwestern State for a 6 p.m. contest in Strawberry Stadium.
Both the Lions (0-2, 0-0 Southland) and the visiting Demons (0-3, 0-2 Southland) will be looking for their first win of the season in the game that will be televised live on Cox Sports Television. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN3 and ESPN College Extra outside of the Cox Sports Television viewing area. A full list of areas where the ESPN3 and ESPN College Extra broadcast will not be shown is available at www.LionSports.net, where Southeastern will also provide live stats.
The game can also be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network. In addition to flagship station KSLU-FM (90.9), the contest will also be broadcast on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and WFPR-AM (1400), as well as online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio app.
In conjunction with the game, Southeastern will also hold Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day, as all Southeastern faculty and staff can present their SLU ID at the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office by Friday at 12:30 p.m. to receive two free tickets to the home opener. On game day, faculty and staff can present their ID at Gate 2.
Southeastern has a 12-1 on-field record in home openers since the program returned in 2003. In conference openers, the Lions are 7-4 since they started competing in football in the Southland Conference, including a perfect 4-0 under head coach Ron Roberts.
Northwestern State is the most frequent opponent for Southeastern in program history by a double-digit margin. Saturday’s game will be the 60th meeting all-time between the two teams. The Lions have won the last four meetings between the two in-state rivals to take a narrow 30-29 advantage in the all-time series.
“We’re playing a very good football team on Saturday,” Roberts said. “Every game we’ve played against Northwestern State in recent years has been very physical and competitive. Saturday’s game is going to come down to who can execute the best on both sides of the ball.”
After a bye week, the Lions will be opening their home schedule in the fourth week of the season. Saturday’s home opener will mark the latest Southeastern has opened its home schedule since 1982, when SLU’s first home game was versus Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 25.
“We’re excited to finally get to play at home in front of our fans,” Roberts said. “We felt like we made a big step forward from week one to week two. Now that we’re starting Southland Conference play, it’s important for us to make another huge stride. We made some mistakes at Southern Utah that we have to clean up if we’re going to be the team we want to be.”
Senior Justin Alo is expected to make his second straight start at quarterback for the Lions after throwing for 275 yards and touchdowns to senior Brandon Acker and junior Juwan Dickey in the Sept. 10 28-23 loss at Southern Utah.
“We were really pleased with the plays we were able to make in the passing game (at SUU),” Roberts said. “We still want to run the ball, but our goal is always to be balanced in our offensive attack.”
On defense, Southeastern is led by junior Javon Tillman with 19 tackles. Juniors Torrance Mosley (18 tackles), Ryan Sigers (16 tackles), Max Lyons (15 tackles) and Lee Spight (10 tackles) round out the top five tackles for SLU.
“We’ve done some good things on defense and most of the plays we’ve given up have been due to mental mistakes,” Roberts commented. “We can’t making those type of breakdowns if we want to be successful.”
The Lion defense will be playing a NSU offense that has seen Brooks Haack (225 yards) and Joel Blumenthal (95 yards, 1 TD) split time under center. Chris Jones (179 yards, 1 TD) and De’Mard Llorens (126 yards) have both been effective on the ground, while Tuff McClain has a team-high 10 catches for 161 yards.
On defense, the Demons have allowed 33.3 points per game – though more than half of their points were allowed in the season opener at FBS No. 21 Baylor. Nick Pierotti, who had 16 tackles at UCA last Saturday, leads NSU with 29 tackles, followed by Austin Balthazar with 22 stops. Shawn Stephens has a team-high 3.5 tackles for loss.
Following this week’s game, Southeastern will travel to Lamar for a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday, Oct. 1 in Beaumont, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and will also air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network.