Southland, WAC and ASUN-WAC Alliance Game Previews – Week 5

Southland Conference Game of the Week

GAME PREVIEW: #14 Southeastern Louisiana vs McNeese

When: Saturday, October 2 at 12p.m. CST
Where:  Cowboy Stadium; Lake Charles, Louisiana
TV/Streaming: ESPN+

A veteran coach and Louisiana native, Frank Scelfo was named the 16th head football coach in school history on January 30, 2018. The 2020 season was moved to the spring of 2021 and Scelfo led the Lions to a 4-3 record in a season that featured all four road games being played against ranked opponents. The Lions finished the unique spring season ranked No. 20 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and No. 21 in the AFCA Coaches FCS Top 25.

Frank Wilson, arguably, had his most difficult season of coaching in 2020-21 after McNeese and Southwest Louisiana took a direct hit from Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of over 150 mph; six weeks later the region was hit with a Category 2 storm – Hurricane Delta.  His Cowboys have struggled this season and he desperately needs a win to right the ship.  

Southeastern Lions (2-1, 0-0 in Southland) 

This Southeastern offense is humming right now – the Lions are averaging 49 points per game and 553.3 yards per game. Last week in the convincing 56-10 road win at Central Connecticut State, the Lion offense finished with 571 total yards and 31 first downs.  Reigning Walter Payton Award winner and senior quarterback Cole Kelley threw for 444 yards and tied a career-high with four touchdown passes on 25-of-33 passing.  Kelley’s top targets were C.J. Turner (five catches, 119 yards, two touchdowns) and Austin Mitchell (five catches, 116 yards, one touchdown).  Defensively, the Lions held Central Connecticut State to 290 total yards, as linebacker Herman Christophe finished with a team-high 10 tackles while defensive back Jack Henderson led Southeastern with two tackles for loss.

McNeese Cowboys (1-3, 0-1 in Southland) 

The Cowboys are struggling on both sides of the ball – the offense is averaging a paltry 18.5 points per game while the defense is allowing 32.75 points per game.  The offense is producing only 296.3 yards per game – 195 through the air and 101 on the ground.  Quarterback Cody Orgeron has five career 300-yard passing games, which ranks second all-time in school history – he needs one more to match the record of six held by James Tabary (2016-18).  In last week’s 31-0 loss at Incarnate Word, Orgeron completed 22-of-36 passes for 215 yards and an interception.  Orgeron’s third quarter turnover snapped a school record of 203 consecutive pass attempts without an interception.  The Cowboys only generated 290 yards of total offense while the defense gave up 468 yards to Incarnate Word.  

Fearless Prediction:

The Cowboys have been disappointing this season while the Lions are rolling – Southeastern will win this football game.   

Southeastern 38 McNeese 27

Western Athletic Conference Game of the Week

GAME PREVIEW: #1 Sam Houston vs Stephen F. Austin (Battle of the Piney Woods)

When: Saturday, October 2 at 4p.m. CST
Where: NRG Stadium; Houston, Texas
TV/Streaming: ESPN+

With a Bearkat win over Stephen F. Austin, K.C. Keeler would win his 247th career game. That would move him into sole possession of eighth place all-time among FCS head coaches who have spent at least 10 years at FCS schools. His 246 total victories are the second most among active coaches in the FCS.  With the Bearkats coming in ranked No. 1 in the FCS, it is the first time in the rivalry’s history that either team has entered the Battle of the Piney Woods with a No. 1 ranking in the polls.  

Colby Carthel has made an immediate splash in the FCS recruiting world, as the Lumberjacks have compiled stellar recruiting classes in the FCS in each of the past two seasons; SFA nabbed the top FCS commit in each of those seasons. Now Carthel is in his third year at the helm of the Lumberjack football program in 2021, looking to build on the progress made in his first two seasons in Texas’ oldest town.

Sam Houston Bearkats (3-0, 0-0 in WAC) 

In last week’s game against Central Arkansas the Bearkats jumped out to a 31-7 lead in the first half behind four touchdown passes from Eric Schmid; the Bears responded with 21 unanswered points to draw within three late in the third quarter. The Bearkats answered with three consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter to win in Conway for the first time since 2015.  Schmid threw two touchdown passes to both Jequez Ezzard and Cody Chrest, giving him his most TD passes since throwing for six scores in a 71-17 win over No. 7 Nicholls in the spring 2021 season. Ramon Jefferson carried the ball 22 times for 104 yards and a touchdown against UCA.  Jaylen Thomas intercepted a pair of passes, giving him three picks this season, all coming in the last two games. The two interceptions give him 10 for his career, tying him with Charles Boyce and teammate Zyon McCollum for sixth all-time at Sam Houston.   

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (3-1, 1-0 in WAC) 

The SFA Football team earned another lopsided victory over an outmatched opponent at home last week, as the Lumberjacks defeated Lincoln (CA) by a 61-13 score last Saturday night Wide receiver Xavier Gipson did not play for an undisclosed reason. But Gipson and quarterback Trae Self have been unstoppable for the Lumberjacks this season – they have connected on 19 passes for 337 yards and three scores though the air.  Gipson had three catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Mississippi Valley State – he was named WAC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.  Trae Self’s 343 passing yards against Texas Tech was the fifth 300+ yard passing game of his career and was within striking distance of his career best of 354, set against Nicholls on September 21, 2019.

Fearless Prediction:

The Lumberjacks will make it tough for Sam Houston, but the Bearkats will prevail.

Sam Houston 35 Stephen F. Austin 23

Other games of interest

Houston Baptist (0-3) at Nicholls (1-2), ESPN3

Sophomore HBU QB Desmond Young is poised to make his first career start following an injury to Blaise Bentsen.  Nicholls QB Lindsey Scott Jr. has completed 57-of-90 passes for 725 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions, while also leading Nicholls in rushing with 287 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.

Nicholls 49 HBU 17

#24 Incarnate Word (3-1) at Northwestern State (0-3), ESPN+

Sophomore QB Cameron Ward threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals’ 31-0 victory over McNeese.  The Demons wasted valuable scoring opportunities in the red zone against UT-Martin – they were beaten 35-10.

UIW 41 Northwestern State 13

Tarleton (2-2) at Eastern Kentucky (2-2), ESPN+

Tarleton had an easy 40-21 win over New Mexico Highlands last week.  The Colonels stormed back to knock off then-No. 19 Austin Peay 35-27 last week.  

EKU 28 Tarleton 17

Central Arkansas (1-3) at Abilene Christian (3-1), ESPN+

The Bears were beaten at home 45-35 by top-ranked Sam Houston last week.  Abilene Christian manhandled Lamar 56-0 in Beaumont.  

UCA 35 ACU 34

Dixie State (0-3) at #2 South Dakota State (3-0), ESPN+

Dixie State has a monster schedule this season while South Dakota State is looking to get back to Frisco.

SDSU 56 Dixie State 0