SLU faced off against Eastern Washington University yesterday, and came out with yet another out-of-conference loss as the Lions fall to 0-3 with conference play looming. There are some glaring weaknesses with this team that may have not been obvious as SLU played two FBS opponents to open the season, but now that the Lions have lost to an equal-at-best opponent, we shall see if these are addressed.
The quarterback situation in Hammond is unique, as, like every year so far during the Frank Scelfo era, SLU has sported two quarterbacks who split time. This doesn’t seem to be working, as on paper, SLU has both of the two-best quarterbacks from last season in the conference. However, neither quarterback has performed exceptionally, which was to be expected against Mississippi State and South Alabama. But with neither quarterback taking all snaps under center, it has hindered development and chemistry between the quarterbacks and the rest of the offense. Combined, the quarterbacks went just 12-23 yesterday with 141 yards and 3 touchdowns, against one interception, thrown by Zachary Clement. Clement went 10-19 for 80 yards and two of the three touchdown passes, and added 53 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown on the ground. Overall, a good performance, but his passing leaves some to be desired. Clement should and has been the one getting more reps between himself and Eli Sawyer, who went 3-4 for 61 yards in the loss.
Rushing-wise for the Lions, Harlan Dixon once again took control, only seeding a lone carry to Cyrus Zuell. Dixon was solid, averaging 3.9 yards per carry on 18 carries for 71 yards total. With the way his share of the carries is trending, Dixon could very well be a 1,000-yard rusher this season. Tight end Bauer Sharp ran for 27 yards on 2 carries with a long of 19, and as mentioned earlier, Clement went off for 53 yards on the ground with a touchdown.
Another issue with this offense is that there seems to be a lack of a second receiving option. Darius Lewis has been one of the best performers, for the whole team overall, in the early part of this season, and has cemented himself as WR1 moving forward. Lewis caught 4 balls for 75 yards, including a 54-yarder from Sawyer in the 2nd quarter. Outside of Lewis, only two catches were made by other wide receivers, with Jaylon Domingeaux catching a 20-yarder on the second play from scrimmage, and Mike Williams caught a six-yard pass. Bauer Sharp caught two touchdowns on just 2 catches for 4 yards, and Jacob Logan scored once on 2-21 receiving. Domingeaux is the closest example of WR2 on this roster, but doesn’t play a huge role yet. It will be something to look out for, regarding the second receiving option on this team moving forward.
On defense, tackle stats were unfortunately not recorded. Both teams fumbled twice, but the offense recovered in all four instances. Tylon Cooper came up with the lone takeaway for SLU, and Marlon Jones Jr. came up with the interception for EWU, which was returned for a touchdown.
The Eagles had a lethal passing game. Sophomore Kekoa Visperas threw the ball 47 times, and completed 33 of those for 349 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Visperas did not have the same issues SLU did spreading the ball, finding leading receiver Efton Chism III for 9 catches with 103 yards and a touchdown, Nolan Ulm for 9-89 and a touchdown, and Anthony Stell Jr. for 8-57. Visperas found 7 other receivers as well for 8 catches, and even caught a pass himself from backup quarterback Michael Wortham.
Tuna Altahir once again led the team in carries, but Justice Jackson led the team in rushing yards for the second straight week with 91 and a touchdown on 12 carries. Altahir touched the ball 14 times on the ground and picked up 37 yards, and added a touchdown of his own to the statline.
This was a good test to see what SLU has before conference play starts. SLU opens the conference schedule with a home matchup against Houston Christian University at 6 PM CT. EWU heads to California to open their conference schedule with a matchup against UC-Davis.