When Southeastern Louisiana takes the field Saturday I may be one of the few people at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium who have more than scant knowledge of the Lions.
Oh, I can’t name the great players or anything, but I do know that former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer was 38-24-2 in six seasons in Hammond from 1974-1979.
Had Billy coached another few years there I’d have seen one of his teams.
Growing up in Denham Springs I made it to a few games with friends.
Southeastern disbanded football in the 80s, brought back in the early 2000s and made the playoffs under former Delta State coach Ron Roberts, who is now the defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette. (Remember the hyphen for the Lafayette team folks, and don’t get caught up in the campaign of misinformation.)
The Lions were 4-7 last year in their first season under Frank Scelfo. They surged into the FCS rankings at No. 23 this week after a 35-14 win over then-No. 6 Jacksonville State in Week 1.
Ole Miss fans may remember Jacksonville State from 2010. That’s how far back you have to go to know that sometimes these FCS teams win these games.
Brewer’s not the only Ole Miss connection with Southeastern. Nathan Stanley, who quarterbacked the Rebels in the Jacksonville State game along with Jeremiah Masoli, eventually made his way to Southeastern.
Former Ole Miss quarterback Micheal Spurlock is a part of Scelfo’s staff for a second season after an eight-year NFL career and will be highlighted in Friday’s Daily Journal
The Lions were opportunistic on defense against Jacksonville State with six sacks and two interceptions.
Offensively they had one sustained touchdown drive, a nine-play, 80-yard effort.
They scored on a 35-yard pass, a 58-yard pass and a 4-yard run after an interception was returned inside the 5.
At the end of the day a Strawberry Stadium crowd of 7,116 watched the Lions total 146 rushing yards, 238 passing yards.
The Lions will play two quarterbacks in this game, both of them FBS transfers in Chason Virgil (Fresno State) and Cole Kelley (Arkansas). Kelley has a VHS win under his belt as he was 19-for-30 for 189 yards with three touchdowns and one interception when the Razorbacks defeated Ole Miss 38-37 in 2017.
He was 5-for-9 for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Jacksonville State as Virgil took most of the snaps.
It won’t be an incompetent group that challenges the Rebels Saturday, and frankly, while the Rebels were impressive on both sides of the ball in snapping a six-game skid with a 31-17 win over Arkansas last week, they are a young team, and there is too much struggle in the recent history – including just two weeks ago at Memphis – to think they can roll out the helmets and win against anybody.
These smaller teams knock off somebody every year, and you have to account for that. You have to prepare, and you have to focus.
It’s the process, Nick Saban says.
The reality is that if the week of preparation is handled properly you should be able to get a lot of getting better done. You should be able to have the in-ward focus Ole Miss coach Matt Luke talked about on Monday, making sure you’re getting your calls and running your plays to the best of your ability because when it comes down to it, your best plays and calls should beat their plays and calls because your recruiting has been better.
And if you’ve drawn a weak FCS opponent and recognize that maybe you can plan to rest a player or two and work in some of your reserves early in the game.
That’s not a plan coaches will discuss us on Mondays, but it sometimes happens, and it’s why the FCS game is a good thing for the SEC. You get beat up in the league, and one Saturday where the intensity doesn’t rate as high or higher than the humidity is not evil.
Hopefully for the Rebels the week at Ole Miss has been one for the in-ward focus Luke described and extra reps for the guys who haven’t played much in the first two weeks.
This young team needs the practice time it can get.
Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Southeastern Louisiana 15