Second-half surge leads SLU past ACU, 56-21, for fifth straight victory
ABILENE, Texas – Southeastern Louisiana outscored Abilene Christian, 35-8, in the second half on the way to a dominant 56-21 victory in Southland Conference football action Saturday afternoon at Wildcat Stadium.
The Lions (5-3, 5-1 Southland) exploded for their fifth straight victory and secured a winning Southland Conference record for the fifth time in their six seasons under head coach Ron Roberts. Saturday’s win marked the school record fifth straight contest where the Lions topped 40 points or more. Abilene Christian (2-5, 2-4 Southland) drew a sellout crowd to its new stadium for its first on-campus Homecoming since 1942.
Facing an ACU defense that came in ranked near the top of the Southland Conference, Southeastern matched its highest scoring output of 2017 and racked up a season-high 623 total yards – including a season-high 443 rushing yards on the ground. The single-game total marked the second-highest by the Lions since the program returned prior to the 2003 season.
For the second time this season, the Lions had two players top 100 yards rushing. Senior Eugene Bethea led the Lions with 108 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while junior Darren Johnson finished with 105 yards on 13 carries. Sophomore Lorenzo Nunez rushed for a season-high three scores and 70 yards on 13 carries, while freshman Delmonte Hall added 79 yards on the ground on six attempts.
Nunez found senior Juwan Dickey for a touchdown, while freshman Byron Walker hooked up with fellow freshmen Marcus Cooper and Austin Mitchell for long scoring throws.
SLU limited ACU to 293 total yards, including 119 after halftime. Senior Max Lyons finished with a team-high eight tackles, as he and senior Lee Spight each finished with a sack.
SLU took the opening drive 75 yards on 10 plays to take the early lead. Nunez burst around left end and fumbled at the goal line. Dickey was right there to fall on the loose ball and give the Lions a 7-0 lead with 10:26 left in the opening quarter.
A short kickoff gave ACU the ball at midfield on its first drive. The Lion defense stiffened, but with the wind at his back, senior Nik Grau netted a 46-yard field goal to cut the SLU lead to 7-3.
Southeastern was able to double its output on the opening drive of the second quarter. Three plays after a 10-yard punt by junior Simon Lareya gave the Lions the ball at midfield, Nunez tight-roped the left sideline on the way to a 39-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
The Lions forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but then a bad option pitch by Nunez was recovered by sophomore defensive end Temisan Kuyatsemi at the Lion 25-yard line. ACU took advantage of the SLU miscue quickly, as sophomore Tracey James raced in from 19 yards out to cut the Southeastern advantage to 14-10 with 9:19 remaining in the first half.
SLU bounced back on the ensuing drive with a methodical nine-play, 58-yard drive. Nunez capped the march, bulldozing in from three yards out to extend the lead to 21-10 with 5:43 left in the second quarter. ACU was able to sneak a 31-yard field goal in on the final play of the half to cut the Southeastern halftime edge to 21-13.
The Lions forced a three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half. On their first drive of the second half, SLU marched 46 yards on 11 plays. On fourth-and-goal, Nunez found senior Juwan Dickey for a two-yard score and a 28-13 lead with 8:01 left in the third quarter.
Southeastern extended its lead heading into the fourth quarter. Bethea broke through the left side untouched and raced 65 yards for a touchdown to give SLU a 35-13 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Any chance of a ACU comeback was ended on the next drive that extended into the fourth quarter. A 33-yard strike from Nunez to sophomore Bransen Schwebel set up an 11-yard scoring run by Nunez that gave the Lions a 42-13 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Walker’s only two passes of the contest resulted in touchdowns on the next two drives. The Sulphur, Louisiana native connected with Cooper (54 yards) and Mitchell (41 yards) for touchdowns to give SLU a 56-13 lead. ACU managed one last score in the final minutes, as freshman Luke Anthony found senior Troy Grant for a three-yard touchdown with less than five minutes left to cut into the final margin.
Southeastern will return home to host No. 7 Sam Houston State for a 7 p.m. contest next Saturday at Strawberry Stadium. The game will be televised live on ESPN3 and heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, WFPR 1400 AM), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio app.
The game versus the defending Southland champion Bearkats will double as Homecoming, rescheduled from Oct. 7 after Hurricane Nate cancelled scheduled festivities. There will be no parking in Friendship Circle and no traffic will be allowed in Friendship Circle after 10 a.m. Those with Friendship Circle parking passes will have access to Lot B parking.
The annual Homecoming parade is scheduled for 2 p.m. The 2017 Homecoming King and Queen will be announced at halftime of the SLU-SHSU Southland showdown. The game will also be Solid Gold Saturday in Strawberry Stadium and all fans are encouraged to wear their gold.
SLU – 7 14 14 21 – 56 (5-3, 5-1 SLC)
ACU – 3 10 0 8 – 21 (2-6, 2-4 SLC)
SLU – Dickey 0 fumble recovery (Burkhard kick), 10:26
ACU – Grau 46 FG, 7:33
SLU – Nunez 39 run (Burkhard kick), 13:04
ACU – James 19 run (Grau kick), 9:19
SLU – Nunez 3 run (Burkhard kick), 5:43
ACU – Grau 31 FG, 0:00
SLU – Dickey 2 pass from Nunez (Burkhard kick), 8:01
SLU – Bethea 65 run (Burkhard kick), 3:42
SLU – Nunez 11 run (Burkhard kick), 14:34
SLU – Cooper 54 pass from Walker (Burkhard kick), 9:05
SLU – Mitchell 41 pass from Walker (Burkhard kick), 6:41
ACU – Grant 3 pass from Anthony (Anthony run), 4:50
RUSHING: SLU – Bethea 8-108, Johnson 13-105, Hall 6-79, Nunez 13-70, Cooper 7-44, Petit-Frere 230, Maracalin 8-12, Walker 2-4, Team 1-(-3), Durall 1-(-6), Dickey 0-0. Totals – 61-443. ACU – James 16-99, Bunting 1-61, Sealey 8-9, Washington 4-4, Miller 1-2, Qualls 1-(-1). Totals 31-174.
PASSING: SLU – Nunez 8-19-0-85-1, Walker 2-2-0-95-2. Totals – 10-21-0-180-3. ACU – Sealey 12-29-0-105-0, Anthony 3-5-0-14-1. Totals 15-34-0-119-1.
RECEIVING: SLU – Dickey 4-33, Cooper 1-54, Mitchell 1-41, Schwebel 1-33, Jackson 1-8, Jenkins 1-6, Tolbert 1-5. Totals – 10-180. ACU – James 5-36, Crain 3-29, Grant 2-15, Cokley 2-11, Whitley 1-18, Fink 1-6, Sadler 1-4. Totals – 15-119.
A – 12,000.
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