By Kemmler Chapple
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of LionSports.net
HAMMOND, LA. — Stephen F. Austin junior quarterback Zach Conque powered in from a yard out with under a minute to play to give the Lumberjacks a 28-27 comeback victory over No. 21/23 Southeastern Louisiana on the Lions’ homecoming, sponsored by the Felions and Alpha Sigma Tau, Saturday night in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions (3-3, 2-2 Southland) broke out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter, but Stephen F. Austin (2-5, 2-3 Southland) was able to rally. Conque’s game-winner capped a 16-play, 72-yard scoring march that ate up five minutes off the clock.
Though Conque scored the eventual game-winning score, it was his benching in favor of junior Hunter Taylor that sparked the comeback. Taylor finished 20-for-37 for 214 yards and three touchdowns for Stephen F. Austin.
The Lion offense was led by freshman running back Julius Maracalin, who finished with 10 carries for 81 yards and his first collegiate touchdown. Junior quarterback D’Shaie Landor completed 13-of-23 passes for 201 yards and touchdown passes to seniors Byron Johnson and Chris Briggs.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Jordan Batiste led SLU with nine tackles, while seniors Herbert Harris and Josh Dakin had eight stops each. Batiste also led the Lions with two sacks.
One of Batiste’s sacks resulted in the game’s first score midway through the first quarter. The Gramercy, Louisiana native got to Conque on a safety blitz, knocking the ball free. The ball bounced right into the hands of SLU junior Tre’ Bennett and the Westpoint, Mississippi native raced 49 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 SLU lead with 8:39 to go in the opening quarter.
The next two Southeastern drives resulted in touchdowns. After an SFA punt, Landor found Johnson on a short crossing route. Freshman running back Eugene Bethea set a punishing block, freeing Johnson to race 76 yards for a touchdown. The Zachary, Louisiana native’s first touchdown as a Lion gave SLU a 13-0 lead with 4:48 left in the opening period. Freshman kicker Jonathan Tatum’s PAT try was blocked, keeping the SLU advantage to 13.
Landor and company padded its lead early in the second quarter. Briggs got behind the defense and walked in on a 26-yard touchdown to give the Lions a commanding 20-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
After both offenses stalled over the next couple of possessions, SFA made the play that changed the momentum.
With the Lions into Lumberjack territory on the way to add to their 20-point lead, sophomore Allen Stewart stripped Landor and senior Lance Skyler pounced on the loose ball to end the SLU scoring threat.
Three plays later, Taylor found senior Braxton Bearden for a 14-yard touchdown pass to cut the Southeastern lead to 20-7 with 2:41 left in the opening half.
SFA put the momentum fully on their side heading into the break when the Lion defense had an uncharacteristic lapse. The Lumberjacks were looking to run out the clock, when junior running back Joshawa West broke off a 25-yard run to the Lion 34-yard line.
On the final play from scrimmage of the half, junior De’Quan Ruffin broke a tackle and scored on a quick Taylor slant pass to cut the lead to 20-14 going into the break.
Southeastern looked like it had righted the ship on the opening drive of the third quarter. On the fourth play of the drive, Maracalin raced around left end for a 63-yard touchdown and a 27-14 lead with 12:58 left in the third quarter. SLU would not score again.
SFA cut into the lead later in the quarter. Ruffin caught a short pass and received a nice block from sophomore Robert Sylvester to free him for a 13-yard touchdown from Taylor. Ruffin’s second score of the night capped a nine-play, 96-yard scoring drive and cut the SLU lead to 27-21 with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
From there, both offenses bogged down and the team’s traded punts over the next several possessions. SFA took over at its own 28-yard line with just over five minutes remaining in the game and methodically marched the ball down the field. During the drive, SFA converted five third downs.
Batiste was called for pass interference in the end zone to give the Lumberjacks a first-and-goal at the SLU two-yard line. Three plays later, Conque bulled in to give SFA its first lead with 38 seconds remaining.
The Lions managed one first down on their last-ditch drive, but senior Dylan Bossier was tackled near midfield as time expired.
Southeastern will play its next two games on the road. The Lions will open the road swing with a 2 p.m. game next Saturday at Southland Conference foe Houston Baptist. The contest can be heard on KSLU-FM (90.9) and LionSports.net, as well as affiliates and Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM (WHMD) and The Highway 104.7 FM (WJSH). A live video stream, provided by HBU, will be accessible at LionSports.net.
The Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office has a limited amount of tickets for the HBU game available for $13. Contact the SLU Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 to purchase tickets.
The LAA is also offering a bus trip for fans to the game at HBU. 50 seats are available for $95 per seat on a first-come, first-serve basis. The $95 fee will also include one game ticket, breakfast and dinner. Reservations can be made via credit card only by visiting https://connect.southeastern.edu/laa-houston-baptist-trip-2015 .
The buses will leave on game day at 6 a.m. from the Dugas Center for Athletics and arrive at the official LAA tailgate, where free food and drinks will be served. The buses will return to Hammond immediately following the game. For more information on the bus trip, contact Southeastern Assistant Director of Athletic Development Tom Dawsey at (985) 549-5226.
SFA – 0 14 7 7 – 28 (2-5, 2-3 SLC)
SLU – 13 7 7 0 – 27 (3-3, 2-2 SLC)
SLU – T. Bennett 49 yard fumble return (Tatum kick), 8:39
SLU – Johnson 76 pass from Landor (Tatum kick blocked), 4:48
SLU – Briggs 26 pass from Landor (Tatum kick), 14:26
SFA – Bearden 14 pass from H. Taylor (Juhl kick), 2:41
SFA – Ruffin 34 pass from H. Taylor (Juhl kick), 0:02
SLU – Maracalin 63 run (Tatum kick), 12:58
SFA – Ruffin 13 pass from H. Taylor (Juhl kick), 5:30
SFA – Conque 1 run (Juhl kick), 0:38
FIRST DOWNS 24 17
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 30-120 37-171
PASSING YDS (NET) 234 201
Passes Att-Comp-Int 49-27-0 23-13-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS. 79-354 60-372
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 1-49
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-81 5-71
Punt Returns-Yards 2-5 1-0
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Punts (Number-Avg) 8-38.5 7-42.4
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 5-2
Penalties-Yards 4-35 11-113
Possession Time. 31:08 28:52
Third-Down Conversions 10-of-20 7-of-15
Fourth-Down Conversions 0-of-1 0-of-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-3 0-0
RUSHING: SFA – West 7-82, Conque 11-16, H. Taylor 1-14, Easly 11-8. Totals 30-120. SLU – Maracalin 10-81, French 6-34, Sutton 6-31, Ingraffia 1-12, Landor 10-10, Bethea 1-4, Roberson 2-3, Smith 1-(-4). Totals 37-171.
PASSING: SFA – H. Taylor 20-37-0-214-3, Conque 7-12-0-20-0. Totals 27-49-0-234-3. SLU – Landor 13-23-0-201-2. Totals 13-23-0-201-2.
RECEIVING: SFA – Ruffin 6-98, Liggins 6-39, Sylvester 4-45, Bearden 4-19, Piper 3-21, Jones 2-10, West 2-2. Totals 27-234. SLU – Briggs 3-47, Johnson 2-81, Acker 2-31, French 2-9, Kepley 1-12, Roberson 1-11, Bossier 1-10, Bethea 1-0. Totals 13-201.
A – 7,037.