SELA surges past Northwestern St.

SELA surges past Northwestern St.

Lions' third quarter explosion dooms the Demons
NATCHITOCHES – Triggered by a 92-yard kickoff return touchdown by Xavier Roberson, who entered the game with the nation’s best kickoff return average, Southeastern Louisiana roared from behind by scoring 16 points in just over three minutes midway through the third quarter and posted a 37-22 Southland Conference football road win at Northwestern State Saturday night.

The Lions (5-2 overall, 2-0 in the Southland) notched a safety two plays after Roberson’s return, then drove 51 yards for the go-ahead score after the free kick, getting a 4-yard run by Kody Sutton to move ahead 23-16 with 5:33 left in the third period.

The Demons (3-4, 0-2) answered right away, driving 90 yards, getting the last 43 on a Zack Adkins touchdown strike to Bryant Mitchell, but Chris Moore’s extra point kick was narrowly wide right. The redshirt freshman kicker missed first-half field goal tries from 45 and 44 yards wide left.

Southeastern drove 62 yards after the NSU kickoff, going up 30-22 with 14:38 left to play on a 2-yard sneak by quarterback Bryan Bennett. The Lions padded their lead with 3:35 remaining on Rasheed Harrell’s 1-yard run ending a 36-yard march started after Denzel Thompson intercepted a fourth-down Adkins pass and returned it nine yards as the Demons gambled with the clock winding down.

Roberson was averaging 38.3 yards per kickoff return beginning the night, and was contained on his first three attempts, netting a modest 54 yards. But after Moore hit his second field goal of the game, from 30 yards go to with a 22-yarder with seconds left in the first half, the Lions’ running back fielded the kickoff, broke a couple tackles on the SLU sideline and outraced defenders for his fourth career kick return TD to draw the visitors within 16-14 with 8:32 showing in the third quarter.

NSU’s Ed Eagan, who had a stellar night receiving with 145 yards on seven catches including a 32-yard touchdown, couldn’t handle the ensuing Lions’ kickoff, a knuckleballing bouncer that skipped through Eagan’s hands, between his legs and out of bounds at the NSU 1. On the next play, Adkins fielded a low snap and was tackled in the end zone by Southeastern’s Kevin Harmon for a safety providing a stunning 16-all stalemate.

After the Demons kicked short and away from Roberson on the free kick, the Lions got a pair of Bennett passes for a combined 30 yards as they moved ahead to stay on Sutton’s scoring run.

“That was a very rocky four minutes or so for us,” said first-year Demons’ coach Jay Thomas. “We really had control of the game until the kickoff return, and then we couldn’t field the knuckleball kickoff, got pinned at the 1, and had the bad play for a safety. Southeastern got a ton of momentum and got on a roll that we weren’t able to cool off.”

After largely being held in check, the Lions scored touchdowns on four of five possessions, starting with Roberson’s kickoff runback, and drove 48 yards on 10 plays to the NSU 18 before losing a fumble forced by Cordarius Golston that was recovered by JeMarcus Marshall with 7:20 remaining. The Demons moved 20 yards to a fourth-and-3, and after initially sending out the punt team, tried an Adkins pass to Eagan crossing the middle that Thompson jumped, knifing in front to pick it off.

The Demons dominated the first half while piling up 295 yards, but had only a 13-7 lead. They were poised to make it 17-7 in the closing seconds, but an illegal motion flag on third-and-goal inside the 1 contributed to having to settle for Moore’s 22-yard field goal seven seconds before halftime.

Northwestern finished with a 490-387 yardage advantage and rolled up 27 first downs. Adkins completed 12 of his first 16 throws and finished 21 of 32 with the fourth-quarter interception, tossing for 280 yards. Eagan’s yardage total was 16 yards short of cracking the single-game school top 10.

Bennett went 15 of 21 for 222 yards for the Lions, who won their fourth in a row. The Demons fell for the fourth time in five games after a 2-0 start.

NSU goes to Sam Houston State next Saturday afternoon at 2. Southeastern is home next Saturday night   against Lamar.

The Demons are home again Nov. 2 against Central Arkansas.
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