SLU runs past Lamar, 49-21, in Southland home opener

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HAMMOND, La. – Behind a career-high 176 rushing yards by junior running back Darren Johnson, the Southeastern Louisiana football team rolled to a 49-21 victory over Lamar in Southland Conference action Saturday night at Strawberry Stadium.

The Lions (1-3, 1-1 Southland) picked up its first win of the season and finished with 366 yards on the ground as a team. The rushing yardage total was the fourth-highest single-game output by SLU since the program returned in 2003, as Southeastern finished with a season-high 555 yards of total offense.

Southeastern forced Lamar (1-3, 0-2 Southland) into four turnovers. The victory was SLU’s fifth in the last six meetings with the Cardinals and also helped the Lions avoid the first 0-4 start since 1985.

On a night where former SLU stars Tommy Connors (football), Cass Hargis (baseball) and Kari Yost (soccer) were the latest inductees into the Southeastern Athletics Hall of Fame, Johnson broke out with a Hall of Fame-worthy performance.

Johnson was the leader of the SLU rushing attack, as the Long Beach, California native posted his game-high total on 18 carries and recorded two scores. Sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, junior running back Julius Maracalin and freshman running back Marcus Cooper each rushed for touchdowns.

Nunez was back in the starting lineup for the first time since the season opener and split time under center with freshman Byron Walker. Both quarterbacks threw touchdowns, as Nunez connected with senior Juwan Dickey and Walker tossed his first collegiate touchdown to sophomore Jacq’co Price.

The Southeastern defensive effort was led by senior Lee Spight, who finished with nine tackles. Seniors Ryan Sigers, Mayori Ellison and Mayori Ellison each recorded interceptions, while Johnson forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Courtney Rutledge.

Senior Sione Teuhema added eight tackles for SLU, as he, Spight and junior Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund each were credited with sacks. On his only attempt, sophomore Juwan Petit-Frere broke loose for a 92-yard kickoff return to set up a Lion touchdown.

Lamar junior quarterback Darrel Colbert Jr. threw for 272 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-39 passing and was also picked off three times. The transfer from SMU also rushed for two touchdowns in the victory.

SLU dodged an early bullet on the opening kickoff, as freshman Damien Dawson coughed up a fumble to give the Cardinals the ball in Lion territory. The Lion defense held and LU freshman kicker Elvin Martinez sailed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide left.

The teams traded empty possessions until the Lions got on the board midway through the first quarter. A 21-yard run by Maracalin and a 36-yard scramble by Nunez highlighted a nine-play, 70-yard scoring march. Maracalin bulled in from three yards out to cap the drive and stake SLU to a 7-0 lead with 6:13 left in the opening quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Johnson lit up Lamar junior kickoff returner Rodney Randle Jr. and Rutledge pounced on the loose ball. On the first play of the next drive, Nunez raced around right end for a 19-yard touchdown and a 14-0 SLU lead with 5:57 left in the opening quarter.

Lamar was forced to punt on its next drive, but Johnson lost a fumble that gave the Cards the ball at the SLU 30-yard line. This time LU would capitalize, as Colbert Jr. walked in from nine yards out to cut the lead in half with 2:20 left in the first period.

Southeastern answered just as quickly, as Petit-Frere got loose along the right sideline for a season-long tying 92-yard return down to the Lamar seven-yard line. Four plays later, Dickey made a diving catch at the goal line to give the Lions a 21-7 cushion heading into the second quarter.

Lamar answered with a six-play, 81-yard scoring march to start the second quarter. The final 33 yards came as junior Isaiah Howard hauled in a Colbert Jr. pass to cut the SLU lead to 21-14 just over a minute into the second period.

The rest of the first half was all Southeastern. Johnson rushed five times for 58 yards on a 12-play, 88-yard scoring march. Cooper sliced his way in from four yards out to give SLU a 28-14 lead.

Johnson struck again in the final minute of the half, breaking loose for a 42-yard touchdown run that sent SLU into the break with a 35-14 lead.

Lamar moved into SLU territory on the first drive of the second half, but bogged down just outside of the red zone. The Cardinals went for it on a fourth-and-short, but Teuhema sacked Colbert Jr. to give SLU the ball back.

Johnson ripped off a pair of 18-yard runs to highlight a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive that gave Southeastern its largest lead of the game. The transfer from Long Beach Community College powered in from six yards out to give SLU a commanding 42-14 advantage with 9:40 left in the third quarter.

Colbert Jr. scored on a fourth-and-goal play to end Lamar’s next drive and cut the lead to 42-21 with 5:25 left in the third quarter. The Cardinals would get no closer, however.

After a 35-minute weather delay at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Southeastern closed out the scoring late in the game. Walker found Price wide open from 17 yards out with just under three minutes left to provide the final margin.

Southeastern will now head to Natchitoches for a 6:30 p.m. Southland clash next Saturday at Northwestern State. The game will air live on Cox Sports Television and on ESPN3 outside of the CST viewing area. The contest can also be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, WFPR 1400 AM), online at and via the TuneIn Radio app.

LU – 7 7 7 0  – 21 (1-3, 0-2 SLC)
SLU – 21 14 7 7 – 49 (1-3, 1-1 SLC)

1st Quarter
SLU – Maracalin 3 run (Burkhard kick), 6:14
SLU – Nunez 19 run (Burkhard kick), 5:57
LU – Colbert Jr. 9 run (Martinez kick), 2:20
SLU – Dickey 4 pass from Nunez (Burkhard kick), 0:17

2nd Quarter
LU – Howard 33 pass from Colbert Jr. (Martinez kick), 13:27
SLU – Cooper 4 run (Burkhard kick), 6:03
SLU – Johnson 42 run (Burkhard kick), 0:43

3rd Quarter
SLU – Johnson 6 run (Burkhard kick), 9:40
LU – Colbert Jr. 1 run (Martinez kick), 5:25

4th Quarter
SLU – Price 17 pass from Walker (Burkhard kick), 2:27

Team Statistics
PASS YARDS 394 189
1ST DOWNS 25 25
3RD DOWNS 5-18 4-9
4TH DOWNS 3-7 2-2
TOP 27:10 32:50

RUSHING: LU – King 15-58, Colbert Jr. 16-41, Wanza 3-26, Randle 1-3, Giles 1-(-1), Team 1-(-4), Allen 1-(-4). Totals – 38-119. SLU – Johnson 18-176, Nunez 6-52, Walker 6-44, Maracalin 10-42, Cooper 5-28, Durall 3-15, Petit-Frere 2-9. Totals – 50-366.

PASSING: LU – Colbert Jr. 19-39-3-272-1, Allen 6-12-0-113-0, Banks 0-1-0-0-0, King 1-1-0-9-0. Totals – 26-53-3-394-1. SLU – Nunez 8-15-1-70-1, Walker 7-9-1-119-1. Totals – 15-24-2-189-2.

RECEIVING: LU – Banks 7-88, Giles 6-90, Hawthorne 3-73, Howard 3-67, King 2-12, Daggs 1-25, Sikes 1-12, Robinson 1-11, Colbert Jr. 1-9, Thompson Jr. 1-7. Totals – 26-394. SLU – Dickey 4-21, Cooper 3-35, Ingraffia 3-19, A. Mitchell 2-64, Tolbert 1-36, Price 1-17, Walker 1-(-3). Totals – 15-189.

A – 4,728.

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