Defense, special teams lead No. 11 Lions past Northwestern State, 30-22

Information provided by SLU Athletics

HAMMOND, La. – The No. 11 Southeastern Louisiana football team forced four turnovers and blocked three kicks on the way to a 30-22 Southland Conference victory over Northwestern State Saturday afternoon at Strawberry Stadium.

Southeastern improved to 4-2 and 2-0 in Southland Conference play. The Lions have won their last 12 games versus league competition and extended their winning streak versus in-state league opponents to eight games. Northwestern State fell to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in league action.

The Lions built a 30-8 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Demons rallied to cut it to a one-score game with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. NSU recovered an onside kick, but junior Denzel Thompson intercepted NSU senior quarterback Zach Adkins in the end zone to thwart the Demon rally.

The interception was the second of the game for Thompson and the fourth of Adkins by Lion defenders. Senior Isiah Corbett returned an Adkins pick for a score early in the third quarter, while sophomore Derrick Raymond also posted the first interception of his young Lion career.

Senior Tyler Stoddard led the Lions with 10 tackles, while seniors Marice Sutton and Drew Misita had eight stops each. Misita, senior Jacob Newman and junior Jordan Batiste were all credited with sacks for the Lions.

Adkins finished with 217 passing yards on 25-for-43 passing for one touchdown and four interceptions. Adkins and senior Garrett Atzenweiler each rushed for scores for NSU, while Atzenweiler also caught Adkins' lone touchdown toss.

The Lion special teams came up big, as sophomore Javari Nichols, junior A.J. Bowen and junior Ashton Henderson each blocked kicks. Senior Ryan Adams was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals, including a school-record-long 55-yard field goal. A 79-yard kickoff return by junior Xavier Roberson also set up a SLU touchdown.

The Lion offense was limited to 235 yards. Senior quarterback Bryan Bennett finished with 103 yards passing on 10 of 21 attempts with a touchdown pass to senior Devante Scott. Junior Kody Sutton rushed for a touchdown for the Lions.

Northwestern State mounted the game's first scoring threat late in the first quarter, driving to the Lion 34-yard line. With the wind at his back, NSU junior kicker Chris Moore attempted a 51-yard field goal that Nichols got a hand on to keep the game scoreless.

On the ensuing Southeastern drive, Sutton fumbled to give the Demons the ball in Lion territory. After NSU drove into the red zone, Thompson stepped in front of a short Adkins pass and returned it 51 yards to the Northwestern State 34-yard line. Seven plays later, Adams knocked in a 41-yard field goal to give SLU a 3-0 lead with 10:31 left in the half.

Northwestern State mounted another scoring threat on its next drive, but the Lion defense stiffened after the Demons earned a first-and-goal at the one-yard line. Moore attempted a 24-yard field goal to tie the game, but Ashton Henderson blocked the attempt and Thompson returned it to the Lion 24-yard line.

Southeastern moved into Demon territory, but were stopped at the 38-yard line. That brought in Adams, who hit a line drive 55-yard field goal to put Southeastern up, 6-0, with 1:00 left in the half. The field goal was three yards farther than the previous school standard of 52 yards by Jeff Turner in 2009.

After a Raymond interception, the Lions had an opportunity to add to its advantage late in the half. However, a fake field goal attempt on the final play of the half failed and SLU went into the break with a six-point advantage.

On the third play of the second half, Corbett snatched an Adkins pass and raced in from 44 yards out to give the Lions a 13-0 lead with 13:38 left in the third quarter. The interception was the team-high third of the season for the Belle Glade, Florida native.

After forcing Northwestern State into another three-and-out, Southeastern moved deep enough into Demon territory to allow Adams to kick a 30-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16-0 with 8:54 left in the third quarter.

NSU answered with a methodical 16-play, 75-yard drive to cut the lead in half. Adkins capped the march, plunging in from a yard out. The Demons converted the two-point conversion and pulled within, 16-8, with 2:59 left in the third quarter.

The explosive Roberson made a huge play on the ensuing kickoff, rolling 79 yards to the NSU 7-yard line. Two plays later, Sutton bulled in from six yards out to put the Lions back on top, 23-8, with 2:10 left in the third quarter.

The Lions seemingly put the game away on their first drive of the fourth quarter. On a third-and-21, Bennett found Scott and the Ferriday native dived in the end zone. The 28-yard strike put SLU up, 30-8, with 12:24 left in the contest.

Northwestern State would not go away, quietly, however, as Atzenweiler scored touchdowns on NSU's next two drives to help the Demons cut the lead to 30-22 with 2:47 left in the game.

The ensuing onside kick squirted through the hands of junior Dylan Bossier and NSU sophomore Tuff McClain fell on the loose ball at the Lion 48-yard line. The Demons were able to move down to the Southeastern 36, but Thompson snagged a pass from Adkins in the end zone to secure the victory.

Southeastern will be back on the road next Saturday, heading to Lamar for a 6 p.m. contest in Beaumont, Texas. The contest will be broadcast live in the Hammond area on the flagship station of Southeastern Football, KSLU-FM (90.9), as well as affiliates and Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM (WHMD) and The Highway 104.7 FM (WJSH), along with