Playoff Time in Hammond, America: No. 17 SLU hosts No. 22 FAMU in NCAA FCS First Round matchup

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Austin Mitchell

No. 17 Southeastern (8-3) vs. No. 22 Florida A&M (9-2)
Nov. 27, 2021 | 6 p.m. | Strawberry Stadium | Hammond, La.
Series History: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
Television: ESPN+
–Announcers: Jack Benjamin and LaDarrin McLane
Radio: Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM
–Announcers: Mark Willoughby, Robbie Rhodes and Allen Waddell

HAMMOND, La. – Postseason football returns to the Southeastern Louisiana University campus on Saturday, when No. 17 SLU welcomes No. 22 Florida A&M for a 6 p.m. first-round NCAA FCS playoff matchup in Strawberry Stadium.

The game between the Lions (8-3) and the visiting Rattlers (9-2) will be televised on ESPN+. Saturday’s contest can also be heard in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at www.kajun107.net.

The SLU-FAMU contest will be one of the unique matchups on the opening Saturday of the FCS playoffs. Southeastern leads the nation in total offense, while the Rattlers come to Hammond atop FCS in total defense. Saturday will be the first all-time meeting between the Lions and the Rattlers.

Southeastern currently leads the nation with 48.0 points and 566.6 yards per game. Southland Conference Player of the Year Cole Kelley leads the nation in total offense, passing yards, points responsible for and completion percentage. The reigning Walter Payton Award winner has thrown for 4,382 yards and 38 touchdowns on 339-for-457 passing (74.2 percent), while rushing for a team-high 442 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In his final season in Hammond, Kelley closed out the regular season as the program’s single-season and career record holder in rushing touchdowns (33 – career, 16 – season), total touchdowns scored (35/16), passing yards (7,860/4,382), passing touchdowns (66/38), touchdowns responsible for (101/54) and total offense (8,561/4,824).

Kelley has been protected by the All-Southland quintet of offensive linemen Rendon Miles-Character, John Allen, Jalen Bell, Drew Jones and Ethan McMullan. His top targets are the all-league trio of Austin Mitchell (66 catches, 1,035 yards, nine touchdowns), Nolan Givan (46-464-5 TD) and SLC Freshman of the Year Gage Larvadain (32-484-5 TD).

Second team All-Southland running back Taron Jones (297 rushing yards, 6 TD; 32 catches, 266 yards) has been a weapon out of the backfield. CJ Turner (5 TD), Nick Kovacs (3 TD), Damien Dawson (3 TD), Tim Wilson Jr. (2 TD), Anthony Spurlock (2 TD), Ivan Drobocky (2 TD) and Cephus Johnson III (2 TD) all have multiple scoring catches this fall.

Opponents are averaging 32.0 points and 436.8 yards per contest versus SLU. First team All-Southland linebacker Alexis Ramos leads the team with 71 tackles, followed by Donniel Ward-Magee (46), Alphonso Taylor (45), Jack Henderson (43) and Herman Christophe (41).

First team All-Southland performer Zy Alexander leads the league and ranks sixth in FCS with six interceptions for a Lion defense that is sixth nationally with 16 interceptions as a team. Taylor and Justin Dumas each have two picks, while Henderson, Brandon Barbee, Chinedu Ogbonna, Justin Douglas, Ferlando Jordan and Terrell Carter have one interception apiece.

The Southeastern special teams unit feature three All-Southland performers in Larvadain (29.4 kickoff return average), punter Austin Dunlap (44.1 punting average) and kicker Mateo Rengifo (7-10 FG, 86 points).

Florida A&M is the first SWAC representative in the FCS playoffs since 1997. The Rattlers bounced back from a 1-2 start to the season and come to Hammond riding an eight-game win streak.

FAMU features the top-ranked defense in FCS, allowing 15.1 points and 257.5 yards per game. The Rattlers vaunted defense is led by a pair of Buck Buchanan Award finalists in Markquese Bell, who paces the squad with 79 tackles, and Isaiah Land, the FCS leader with 25.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks.

Quarterback Rasean McKay (193-for-324 passing, 2,219 yards, 20 TD, 4 INT) leads a Florida A&M offense that is averaging 29.0 points and 389.1 yards per outing. Xavier Smith (55 catches, 626 yards, 2 TD) and Jah’Marae Sheread (50-536-9 TD) are McKay’s top targets in the passing game, while Bishop Bonnett (934 yards, 5 TD) and Terrell Jennings (516-5 TD) bolster a balanced Rattler attack.

Southeastern will be making its fourth appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs. The Lions are 2-3 in their previous postseason experience.

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to face James Madison in a 1 p.m. (CST) second round contest next Saturday in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The second round contest will be televised on ESPN+.

TICKETS
For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net. Southeastern will continue offering mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2021-22 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.

SOCIAL MEDIA
For more information on Southeastern Football, follow @LionUpFootball and @Coach_Scelfo on Twitter, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.

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