From SLU Athletics
HAMMOND – For the first time in school history, playoff football will come to Hammond, as fourth-seeded Southeastern Louisiana hosts Sam Houston State at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Strawberry Stadium for a second round NCAA Division I Championship contest.
The game between the Southland Conference champion Lions (10-2) and the visiting two-time national runner up Bearkats (9-4) will air on ESPN3. ESPN, which has exclusive broadcast rights for the playoffs, is also making the broadcast available nationwide via pay-per-view on ESPN GamePlan in addition to coverage on ESPN3.
Southeastern's game can be found on DirecTV channel 789 and Dish channel 458. GamePlan is also available on many cable providers. Visit espngameplan.espn.com for information on how to order. The game will also air on KSLU 90.9 FM, the flagship station of the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, as well as Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM and The Joint 104.7 FM. Fans can listen online at LionSports.net.
Back in action for the first time since closing the regular season with a 52-27 victory over Nicholls State on Nov. 21, Southeastern will be looking to sweep the season series from the Bearkats. On Nov. 16 in Hammond, the Lions scored 24 unanswered points to pull away for a 34-21 victory. Junior quarterback Bryan Bennett, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, threw for three touchdowns in the victory that helped the Lions clinch its first league title since 1961.
"The first game was very competitive and either team could have won," Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. "Sam Houston State has tremendous talent and valuable playoff experience, so we're going to have to be at our best to advance to the quarterfinals. Our players and coaches are very excited to represent our university in front of our community and student body."
Bennett is the leader of a Southeastern offense that is averaging over 40 points and nearly 500 yards per game heading into its playoff debut. The Granada Hills, Calif. native enters Saturday's contest with 2,610 passing yards and 18 passing touchdowns. All-Southland Conference performers Jeff Smiley (45 catches, 586 yards, 5 touchdowns), Tony McCrea (34-634-2 TD) and Marquis Fruge' (29-479-5 TD) are Bennett's top targets.
On the ground, Bennett leads the team with 934 rushing yards and a single-season school record 14 touchdowns. Southeastern's rushing attack is bolstered by All-Southland sophomores Rasheed Harrell (588 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) and Xavier Roberson (500-6 TD), as well as sophomore Kody Sutton (347-6 TD).
The Lions will be facing a talented Bearkat defense that is allowing 416.7 yards and 27.5 points per contest. Tanner Brock (97 tackles), Michael Wade (95) and Eric Fiello (94) are all prolific tacklers, while Andrew Weaver leads the team with seven sacks.
The Bearkat offense is the strength of the team, as the senior-laden SHSU attack is scoring 42-plus points and racking up 462 yards per outing. Brian Bell leads the Bearkats with 2,475 passing yards and 32 touchdowns through the air, most often connecting with Torrance Williams (55 catches, 964 yards, 12 touchdowns). Tim Flanders (1,348 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns), Bell (555-8 TD) and Keshawn Hill (467-8 TD) give SHSU multiple rushing threats.
Southeastern senior linebacker Cqulin Hubert (66 tackles, nine tackles for loss), the Southland Defensive Player of the Year, leads a Lion defense that held opponents to a league-low 22.1 points per game during the regular season. Second team All-Southland juniors Isiah Corbett (15.0 tackles for loss, nine sacks) and Jacob Newman (14.0 TFL, seven sacks) provide the Lions with a pass rushing tandem. First team all-conference sophomore Harlan Miller shares the league lead with four interceptions and is one of five all-league defensive backs in a talented Lion secondary.
The Lions also feature a talented special teams unit. Roberson leads the nation with 37.9 yards per kickoff return and three kickoff return touchdowns, while senior kicker Seth Sebastian is a perfect 14-for-14 on field goals and has a single-season school record 103 points. The first team All-Southland duo is joined by senior punter Matt McCormick, a second team all-conference selection who is averaging 41.1 yards per punt.
The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the quarterfinal round, which is set for Dec. 13 and 14. The Lions-Bearkats winner will meet the winner of Saturday's second round contest between New Hampshire and Maine. Game dates, times and locations will be announced on Sunday. For the latest information on all aspects of Southeastern's playoff run, visit LionSports.net/playoffs2013.