On Saturday (6:00 P.M., PPV), the Southeastern Louisiana Lions of the Southland Conference (FCS) open the 2012 season with a non-conference game at the Missouri Tigers. The Lions are coming off of a 3-8 overall record, and a 1-6 conference record, in 2011.
Missouri finished the 2011 season with an 8-5 record, including a 41-24 win over North Carolina in the Independence Bowl. Earlier this week, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about Southeastern Louisiana.
"This is going to be our first test, against Southeastern Louisiana," said Coach Pinkel. "They're a good football team. I'm sure that we're going to get their best game."
Southeastern Louisiana first-year head coach Ron Roberts brought several members of his staff with him from Division II Delta State, where he had won 47 games over five years. And, the Lions return 50 letterman and 20 starters from last year's team.
"You want to run the football, and stop the run," said Coach Roberts, espousing a time-honored philosophy. "That's the biggest thing you want to hang your hat on."
SLU utilizes multiple offensive formations, and returns 7 starters on offense, highlighted by bookend offensive tackles, Gasten Gabriel and Paul Roppolo, and senior running backs, Sam Fairley and Zeke Jones. Senior QB, Nathan Stanley, a transfer from Mississippi, has passed returning starter Brian Young on the depth chart as the Lions' signal-caller.
In 2011, SLU threw the football on 57% of their plays from scrimmage, and averaged 76 offensive plays/game, while gaining an average of 5.26 yards/play. But their passing efficiency was just 115.49, which was 86th in the FCS.
That offensive approach put a lot of pressure on their defense, which was on the field for an average of nearly 73 plays/game, and which allowed opponents to gain an average of 6.06 yards/play.
Enter Coach Roberts and his emphasis on running the football, and stopping the run.
SLU is expected to line up in a 3-3-5 defense. The Lions return 9 defensive starters from a year ago, and those close to the SLU program have boasted of a "lot of speed" on their defense. Coach Roberts and his staff focused on bringing in "run-stoppers" up front to aid their defense, which is led by senior CB Robert Alford, a Pre-Season FCS All-American selection, and sophomore LB Tyler Stoddard, who led their team with 90 tackles a year ago. Expect a lot of pre-snap movement up front and blitzing from the Lions' defense. In the back, they'll play both man-to-man and zone coverage. They try to outnumber you up front and clog up the middle.
On special teams, the Lions return a kicker and two punters, as well as sophomore return man, Jordan Wells, who established a school record as a freshman with 1383 kickoff return yards (26.6 yards/return).
Generally speaking, Missouri will have a size advantage on both sides of the football, particularly up front. One of SLU's top receivers is a former Missouri recruit, in Houston (TX) native Marquise Fruge' by way of Santa Rosa C.C.
Due to Hurricane Isaac, Southeastern Louisiana practiced on Tuesday morning in preparation for Missouri, but is not expected to practice on Wednesday, as they ride out the storm. The team plans to practice on Thursday, and travel to Missouri on Friday.
During an abbreviated conference call while his team practiced on Tuesday morning, Coach Roberts addressed the situation.
"Honestly, we didn't anticipate Isaac coming, but it just changed our plans a little bit," said Coach Roberts. "We're trying to make sure we don't get any real distractions to our kids. We're trying to keep them on a normal routine……………………………………… We're probably going to miss a day of preparation………………………………………….. You've just got to deal with it, and not let it be too much of a distraction."
Earlier, Coach Roberts had talked about playing Missouri.
"This is a great opportunity for our football team to go up there and play in front of a packed house," said Coach Roberts. "It's going to be an incredible environment. We know that………………………………………….. I know that they have high expectations going into the SEC. A lot of people are excited up there about their program. It's a great environment for us to go up there and open the football season in, and it's also a great gauge of where we're at, because we're going to see a very talented football team, and a lot of speed on the field."
From 2011 Season
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
MISSOURI_______________ SE LOUISIANA [FCS Rankings]
475.54 [12th]___ Total Offense___ 401.82 [28th]
244.00 [9th]____Rushing Offense__ 113.64 [91st]
30___________TDs Rushing__________ 21
231.54 [64th]___Passing Offense_ _ 288.18 [11th]
143.49 [30th]__ Passing Efficiency__ 115.49 [86th]
23___________TDs Passing__________ 17
32.85 [30th]____Scoring Offense___ 28.27 [43rd]
380.00 [61st]___ Total Defense__ 441.00 [111th]
127.38 [29th]__ Rushing Defense_ 222.45 [111th]
17________ TDs Allowed Rushing________ 24
252.62 [94th]___Passing Defense__ 218.55 [79th]
127.66 [56th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 136.53 [87th]
20________ TDs Allowed Passing________ 26
23.54 [44th]____Scoring Defense__ 37.73 [114th]
+0.23 [40th]__ Turnover Margin__ –1.09 [109th]
15 / 8_ ______ Fumbles/Lost_______20 / 12
11________ Interceptions Thrown________ 21
13________ Interceptions Gained________ 13
21.98 [53rd]___Kickoff Return Avg._ __23.83 [9th]
8.89 [55th]____ Punt Return Avg.___ 10.39 [35th]
37.02 [49th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 36.36 [24th]
2.00 [54th]_______Sacks By_____ 1.36 [101st]
1.38 [33rd]____ Sacks Allowed_____2.64 [85th]
29:59 [56th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.__ 25:33 [118th]
39.9% [71st]____3rd Down Conv.__ 40.2% [40th]
58.8% [29th]_ __4th Down Conv.__ 38.5% [85th]