College Sports Journal Southland Football Preview Week of 3/6/21

Northwestern State’s first game of the spring season, Southeastern Louisiana playing for its playoff lives, and surprising Incarnate Word headline Southland Conference action this weekend.

GAME PREVIEW: McNeese State at Southeastern Louisiana
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription req’d)

The Southeastern Louisiana football team enters the spring 2021 home opener 0-1 after a narrow 43-38 loss to Sam Houston in a high-scoring season opener on Saturday. The McNeese State Cowboys are coming off a 48-20 home loss to Incarnate Word – the loss was the first in a home opener for the Cowboys since 2004. The McNeese defense gave up big plays and missed several key tackles during an ugly first half that saw the Cardinals score on five consecutive possessions.

McNeese State Cowboys (1-1, 0-1 in Southland)

Head coach Frank Wilson was coaching his first game ever inside Cowboy Stadium last Saturday and he was disappointed with the outcome – a blowout loss to UIW.  The McNeese defense allowed 518 yards of offense – 209 on the ground.  Some of McNeese’s problems were self-inflicted, as they were flagged 13 times for 111 yards in penalties.  Others are attributed to the offensive line, as injuries have decimated that position group.  The Cowboy offense is led by QB Cody Orgeron; defensively, the Cowboys are led by linemen Camron Peterson and Isaiah Chambers who bring constant pressure to the QB.  But the McNeese secondary is suspect to say the least.  

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (0-1, 0-1 in Southland)

The Lion offense had a big day last Saturday, accumulating 536 total yards. Cole Kelley threw for 462 yards – the fourth-highest total in school history – and four touchdowns on 36-of-53 passing. C.J. Turner (11 catches, 150 yards, two touchdowns) and Austin Mitchell (10 catches, 142 yards) were the top targets for the Lions. Turner was an honorable mention choice for Stats Perform FCS National Offensive Player of the Week.

Fearless Prediction

The past year’s heartaches and headaches have taken a toll on this McNeese team, which has only really been together working since the new year started.  Southeastern Louisiana probably cannot afford another loss if it wants to make the playoffs – the Lions will win this game. 

Southeastern Louisiana 38 McNeese 27

GAME PREVIEW: Nicholls at Northwestern State
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription req’d)

Nicholls posted a 600-yard day on offense last Saturday, while the defense kept Lamar off the scoreboard as the Colonels steamrolled past the Cardinals, 55-0 at John L. Guidry Stadium. This will be Northwestern State’s first game of the spring season – their season opener against Lamar was postponed due to the winter storm which devastated the region.

Nicholls Colonels (2-0, 1-0 in Southland)

Quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. accounted for six of the Colonels’ scores last week – three rushing and three passing – to tie a single-game program record for touchdowns responsible for. He carved up the Lamar defense by completing 16 of 21 passes for 232 yards while rushing for 108 yards on 10 carries.  As impressive as the offense was, the defense held the Cardinals to 91 yards of total offense and just six first downs.  In eight quarters this season, the Colonel defense has not allowed a touchdown. The squad is led by freshman Hayden Shaaheen – he had seven tackles and one forced fumble last week. Linebacker Ty’Ree Evans had five tackles in his debut against Lamar – he also picked up a sack. 

Northwestern State Demons (0-0, 0-0 in Southland)

Head coach Braid Laird has holes to fill on offense – QB Shelton Eppler and WR Quan Shorts both graduated, and they were major contributors to a record-setting offense.  Keep an eye on WR Marquise Bridges – he was the second-leading receiver for the 2019 NJCAA national champions.  Wide receiver Kendrick Price is good – he emerged as a reliable playmaker in the second half of the 2019 season with 26 receptions for 372 yards before tearing his ACL.  Look for safety P.J. Herrington to lead the defense – he was a two-year letterman for the East Mississippi Lions, hauling in four interceptions and recording 40 tackles in 2017.  

Fearless Prediction

This should be a good tune-up for Nicholls – they have a showdown with Sam Houston next Saturday.  QB Lindsey Scott Jr. and RB Julien Gums have the offense rolling and the defense looks stout as well.  Northwestern State went 3-9 in 2019, and they lost too many key players to graduation and the transfer portal.  The Colonels should have no problem.

Nicholls 52 Northwestern State 17

Provost Umphrey Stadium

GAME PREVIEW: Incarnate Word at Lamar
TV/Streaming: ESPN+ (subscription req’d)

The UIW Cardinals manhandled McNeese last weekend by a score of 48-20. They led 31-3 at the half, and the game was never in doubt. Lamar was demolished by Nicholls last week – it was 55-0 in the third quarter when Nicholls head coach Tim Rebowe took his foot off the gas. It was Blane Morgan’s first game as a collegiate head coach – Lamar hired him in December of 2019.

UIW Cardinals (1-0, 1-0 in Southland)

The 48-20 win is the largest road win under third-year head coach Eric Morris and is tied for the largest margin since he took over the program.  Ce’ Cori Tolds recorded a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown against McNeese for his fourth career kickoff return for a score. He was named Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on March 1.  In his UIW debut, freshman quarterback Cameron Ward matched a true freshman record for most touchdown passes in a single game with four against the Cowboys.  Defensively, the Cardinals were led by Kelechi Anyalebechi’s nine solo tackles as well as Chance Main’s six solo and one assist with two sacks for a loss of 13 yards.  

Lamar Cardinals (0-1, 0-1 in Southland)

Quarterback Jalen Dummett led the squad against the Colonels last Saturday – he completed 9-of-11 passes for 40 yards while also carrying the ball 11 times for 13 yards.  Dummett connected with six different receivers on the afternoon.  Junior Jeremy Davis and sophomore Marcellus Johnson led LU with three catches for 14 yards.  Freshman Jaylon Jackson added eight carries for a team-high 19 yards. The Cardinals defense was led by junior Aaron Calcote’s eight tackles.  A trio of Cardinals each finished the game with six tackles (five solo stops and one assisted tackle each), including Vencent Rockwell who added a tackle for a loss.  

Fearless Prediction

In coach Eric Morris’ first season (2018), the Cardinals won six games (tying a program record for single season wins), securing a share of the Southland Conference Championship and the program’s first berth in the FCS Playoffs. This team appears to be just as good – maybe even better. Lamar has 51 freshmen on its roster so this rebuild will take some time. But the Cardinals should be more competitive this week.

Incarnate Word 42 Lamar 17

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