Southeastern cracks Top 10 in FCS polls for first time since 2014

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Cole Kelley

HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana University football team continued its climb in both the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and AFCA FCS Coaches Top 25 polls, which were both released Monday.

The Lions moved to ninth in both polls. The ranking marks the first time Southeastern has cracked the top 10 in the national polls since the final poll of the regular season in 2014, as SLU was tabbed ninth in the coaches Top 25 heading into the FCS playoffs.

SLU moved up two spots in both polls after opening its home schedule with a 61-24 Homecoming rout of HBU. The Lions – off to a 5-1 start for the first time since 1980 – extended their winning streak to four games with the win over the Huskies.

The Southeastern offense finished with a season-high in points, yards (634) and first downs (34) in Saturday’s triumph. Senior quarterback and Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley tied his career high with five touchdown passes, throwing for 396 yards and 31-for-38 passing. Kelley found Austin Mitchell for a pair of touchdowns passes, allowing the senior from Plaquemine, Louisiana to move into second place on the school’s career receiving touchdown list with 23. CJ Turner, Nick Kovacs and Gage Larvadain also hauled in scoring tosses.

SLU also posted a season-high with 238 rushing yards. Cephus Johnson III led the Lions with 87 yards on the ground, as both he and Jahmon McClendon found the end zone on rushing touchdowns.

The Lion defense held HBU to 295 total yards – including just 56 on the ground – in the win. Jack Henderson and Brandon Barbee each recorded interceptions, while Josh Randall had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Alexis Ramos led Southeastern with five tackles, ae he, Garrett Crawford, Bryce Cage, Rodney Sopsher and Chinedu Ogbonna all recorded tackles for loss.

The Southeastern offense leads the nation in third-down conversion percentage (59.5), completion percentage (74.6) and tackles for loss allowed per game (3.0), while also ranking among the FCS leaders in scoring offense (50.7 ppg, 2nd), total offense (569.5 ypg, 2nd), passing offense (404.7 ypg, 3rd) and first downs (188, 2nd).

Kelley is bettering his numbers from the spring season when he won the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy. The Lafayette, Louisiana native has thrown for 2,395 yards, 23 touchdowns and five interceptions on 195-for-258 passing, while also leading the team with seven rushing touchdowns.

Kelley leads the nation with a 75.6 completion percentage, while also ranking among the national leaders in completions per game (32.5, 2nd), passing touchdowns (2nd), passing yards (2nd), points responsible for (182, 2nd) and total offense (440.0 ypg, 2nd).

The Lion defense is fourth in FCS with 10 interceptions on the season. Zy Alexander and Alphonso Taylor have two picks apiece, while Barbee, Henderson, Ferlando Jordan, Justin Douglas, Justin Dumas and Terrell Carter each have one.

On special teams, Mateo Rengifo is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals, while Larvadain is second in the FCS with 35.3 yards per kickoff return. Austin Dunlap has only had the opportunity to punt eight times in the first six games, but is averaging 42.8 yards per punt.

Southeastern will be back in action on Saturday, traveling to Northwestern State for a 3 p.m. contest in Natchitoches. The game will be televised on ESPN+ and 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.

Stats Perform FCS Top 25
Team (First-place votes) Record Points Prv.
1. Sam Houston (35) 5-0 1,223 1
2. Eastern Washington (14) 7-0 1,178 2
3. North Dakota State (1) 6-0 1,169 3
4. Southern Illinois 6-1 1,097 4
5. Villanova 5-1 1,022 6
6. South Dakota State 5-1 980 7
7. James Madison 5-1 951 8
8. Montana State 6-1 919 9
9. Southeastern 5-1 842 11
10. UC Davis 6-1 750 13
11. Montana 4-2 694 5
12. Kennesaw State 5-1 658 15
13. UT Martin 5-1 583 17
14. ETSU 6-1 556 10
15. South Dakota 5-2 521 21
16. UIW 5-1 518 18
17. Missouri State 4-2 486 20
18. Rhode Island 5-1 405 12
19. Sacramento State 4-2 251 NR
20. Northern Iowa 3-3 190 16
21. VMI 5-2 173 NR
22. Princeton 5-0 166 25
23. Delaware 3-3 152 14
24. Jackson State 5-1 148 NR
25. Dartmouth 5-0 120 NR

Others Receiving Votes: Jacksonville State 104, Harvard 101, Eastern Kentucky 85, Weber State 73, Duquesne 44, North Dakota 27, Prairie View 16, Youngstown State 11, Chattanooga 8, William & Mary 7, Stephen F. Austin 5, Mercer 4.

AFCS FCS Coaches Top 25
Team (First-place votes) Record Points Prv.
1. Sam Houston (26) 5-0 674 1
2. Eastern Washington (2) 7-0 670 2
3. North Dakota State 6-0 646 3
4. Southern Illinois 6-1 605 4
5. Villanova 5-1 581 5
6. James Madison 5-1 561 7
7. South Dakota State 5-1 543 8
8. Montana State 6-1 509 9
9. Southeastern 5-1 453 11
10. UC Davis 6-1 419 12
11. Kennesaw State 5-1 409 13
12. Montana 4-2 376 6
13. UT Martin 5-1 347 16
14. East Tennessee State 6-1 312 10
15. South Dakota 5-2 268 21
16. Harvard 5-0 246 19
17. Princeton 5-0 193 20
18. Missouri State 4-2 184 23
19. Rhode Island 5-1 169 14
20. Jackson State 5-1 151 25
21. Jacksonville State 3-3 111 22
22. Eastern Kentucky 5-2 93 NR
23. VMI 5-2 89 NR
24. Northern Iowa 3-3 85 17
25. Delaware 3-3 71 15

Others receiving votes: UIW 70, Dartmouth 67, North Dakota 34, Chattanooga 33, Weber State 28, Monmouth 19, Florida A&M 15, Duquesne 13, Sacramento State 10, Holy Cross 9, Furman 8, Mercer 6, New Hampshire 6, Stephen F. Austin 6, Yale 6, Prairie View A&M 2, Towson 2, Elon 1.

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