The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

Lions roar to double-digit victory over McNeese to nab first win at the ‘Berry

Troy Allen
SLU sophomore running back Rodeo Graham Jr. (No. 8) celebrates with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Da’shun Hugley (No. 80) following one of his three touchdowns against McNeese at Strawberry Stadium. (Nov. 4, 2023 – Hammond)

The Southeastern Lions (2-7, 2-3 SLC) beat the McNeese Cowboys (0-8, 1-4 SLC) 38-24 on Saturday evening at Strawberry Stadium. 

Junior quarterback Zachary Clement went for a career-high 114 rushing yards and passed for 158 with two touchdowns in place of redshirt sophomore quarterback Eli Sawyer, who is dealing with a knee injury. 

Sophomore running back Rodeo Graham Jr. rushed for 73 yards and found paydirt three separate times. Graham Jr.’s three-touchdown performance was also a career-high. 

Collectively, SLU gained 491 yards of offense and rushed for a season-high 333 yards. All of this offensive production led to the highest point total of the season. 

“I feel like we had some explosive plays, and we did some things well. However, we also have a lot to work on and clean up. We’re happy we came out with the win and that’s what the goal was,” Clement said. 

Southeastern opened up their first possession with a touchdown. Clement connected with four different receivers on the drive, which ended in a 17-yard catch and run from redshirt junior wide receiver Darius Lewis. 

Lewis was hit by a Cowboy defender shy of the goal line but was determined to find the end zone. Using his lower body strength to keep his 5’8 frame above the turf, he stretched out his arms to break the plane and scored the first points for the Green and Gold. The extra point was good from sophomore kicker Riley Callaghan to make the game 7-0. 

McNeese only took five plays to respond with a touchdown of their own. Quarterback Ryan Roberts threw a swing pass short to the left and wideout Jonathan Harris took it to the house (7-7, Garrison Smith PAT). 

On Southeastern’s next possession, they found themselves in a fourth-and-five situation on their 47-yard line. Head Coach Frank Scelfo dialed up a gutsy fake punt. Instead of snapping the ball to Callaghan, it was snapped to redshirt senior tight end Jacond Logan. 

Logan went for 37 yards and took the ball inside the red zone. Following the crucial conversion, Clement completed a three-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Jaylon Domingeaux. 

Following the play, Cowboys’ defensive back Thomas Miles was promptly ejected from the game due to a targeting call. The penalty moved the ball from the 16-yard line to the six. 

Using the additional yardage to their advantage, Graham Jr. scored a touchdown. The Baton Rouge native ran into a pile of bodies but kept churning his legs forward. With an extra push from the offensive line, Graham Jr. fell forward into the endzone for the go-ahead score from six yards out. The PAT made it a 14-7 ballgame. 

The defense stood tall and forced MSU to punt the football. With possession again, Clement and redshirt sophomore tight end Bauer Sharp had back-to-back rushes of 25-plus yards to put the ball inside the Cowboys’ 20-yard line. Graham Jr. proceeded to run in another touchdown, nabbing his second of the day. After the extra point, the Green and Gold held a 21-7 lead.

With 8:30 remaining in the second quarter, the Lions put together a 12-play drive, but it was all for naught. Clement threw a pass, which was tipped in the air by defensive lineman Sedric Applewhite and intercepted by defensive end Masey Lewis. 

The oh-so-familiar and unlucky turnover has plagued Southeastern all season long. Fortunately, the defense forced a three-and-out to return the ball to the offense. However, the string of bad luck continued as a field goal attempt with 30 seconds remaining in the first half was blocked by defensive lineman Welland Williams.

Heading into intermission, SLU maintained their 14-point lead over the Cowboys. 

A mere 20 seconds into the third quarter, McNeese scored a 77-yard touchdown on their first offensive play of the second half as quarterback Kamden Sixkiller connected with wide receiver Jihad Marks to make it a 21-14 game (Smith PAT). 

The Lions promptly responded with a seven-play touchdown drive, culminating in another score by Graham Jr. He skillfully navigated through the hole created by his offensive line, and broke tackles along the way to ultimately reach the end zone. The successful extra point extended SLU’s lead to 28-14.

“I feel like we put everything together and executed. The O-line was good tonight; they came out and blocked for me, which allowed me to have many touchdowns. If it weren’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened,” Graham Jr. said. 

The Cowboys opted for a 41-yard field goal attempt on their subsequent offensive possession which they successfully converted making the score 28-17. 

As the game teetered on the precipice, McNeese’s defense once again rose to the occasion. They forced a turnover when Clement was sacked and coughed up the football; the forced fumble and recovery was made by linebacker Micah Davey. 

Davey led all tacklers, tallying 16 total for the afternoon.

Capitalizing on the turnover, McNeese orchestrated a touchdown drive, with running back D’Angelo Durham rushing four yards into the endzone. The Cowboys’ good fortune continued as Applewhite intercepted Clement on the Lion’s ensuing possession.

Throughout the third quarter, MSU outscored Southeastern 17-7 and forced two turnovers. As both teams entered the fourth and final quarter, McNeese only trailed by four points, with the score at 28-24 and all the momentum. 

With 12:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, Southeastern would turn the tide by intercepting Sixkiller. Senior defensive back Victor Tademy jumped the pass and pulled it down. SLU’s offense wasted no time as Clement hit junior wide receiver Xavier Hill for a 46-yard touchdown deep down the right side of the field. The PAT made the game 35-24.

Hill extended his right arm out with the ball to hit the front pylon in the corner of the endzone as he was getting pushed out of bounds. The miraculous effort granted him his first touchdown of the season. 

McNeese’s fate was all but sealed in the final five minutes of the game. Marks coughed up the football on a short second and 10 passing play. Senior linebacker Herman Christopher IV punched the ball out and recovered it. 

Callaghan and the special teams unit tacked on a field goal from 41 yards out to push the lead to 38-24 after the offense failed to pick up the first down on three plays. 

After a third-quarter scare, the Lions’ defense held down the fort in the fourth and held MSU’s offense scoreless while forcing two turnovers. Offensively, SLU scored 10 points and won their second straight game by double-digits. 

“Our defense did a good job in the fourth. Our guys rallied and stayed strong. We dominated the line of scrimmage from both sides, and I was pleased to see that,” Scelfo said.  

On Saturday, Nov. 11, the Green and Gold will travel to Commerce, Texas, for a battle with Texas A&M-Commerce (1-8, 1-4 SLC). 

To watch the action, tune in on ESPN+ at 3:30 p.m.

For further coverage of Southeastern football, stay tuned to The Lion’s Roar.  

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About the Contributor
Troy Allen
Troy Allen, Assistant Sports Editor
Troy Allen is a senior mass communication major with a concentration in sports journalism. He joined The Lion’s Roar as a staff reporter in September of 2022 with hopes of contributing to a great program. Troy plans to follow his passion for covering various sports like football, basketball and baseball. On his off days, he loves to hang out with friends and family, watch football and play video games.
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