Good not good enough for the Lions at Tulane

The 33 points put up by the Lions’ explosive no-huddle offense was not enough for a victory as Southeastern fell to Conference USA opponent Tulane in Saturday’s season opener 47-33. The Lions showed good signs early, responding to a Green Wave field goal by marching down the field with a steady ground game. They capped off their first drive of the game with a one-yard touchdown run by junior running back Zeke Jones giving the Lions a 7-3 lead with 10:15 left in the first quarter. Jones finished the day with 17 carries for 65-yards and two scores.

“I was proud of the guys. I thought we had some nice holes in the ground game,” said Lions head coach Mike Lucas.

On their next possession, the Green Wave attacked the Lions’ new and inexperienced secondary as quarterback Ryan Griffin completed a slant pass to wide receiver Van Hooser who took it for a 55-yard touchdown putting Tulane on top 10-7. Tulane came right back through the air as Griffin completed a pass to running back Orleans Darkwa, who carried the ball to the 38-yardline, eventually leading to a touchdown pass to linebacker/fullback Trent Mackey. This put the Green Wave over the Lions 17-7 with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

“We gave up way too many big plays,” said Lucas. “I said going in that we had some new faces back there and athletic kids, and we were going to see how they responded when the bombs and rockets go off and we got big- eyed. We didn’t play great back there.”

Defensive leaders for  the Lions were junior linebacker Tay Alford with 7 tackles and junior defensive end Devon Walker with a sack.

The Lions offense responded quickly, starting off their next drive with a 25-yard run by running back Sam Fairley followed by a 29-yard end around from senior wide receiver Brandon Collins getting the ball to the 13-yardline. Collins led all receivers with nine receptions for 94 yards. The drive ended with a 5-yard touchdown run from Jones for his second score of the day closing the deficit 17-14.

“I feel like the line did a great job with the run game. Coach [offensive coordinator Allen Rudolph] just called good plays and we executed,” said junior quarterback Brian Young.

After two stalled drives the first half shootout would continue when Griffin found his target in junior wide reciever Ryan Grant for a 27-yard score, putting the Green Wave on top 24-14. The Lions responded immediately, as freshman running back Jordan Wells took the ensuing kickoff 44-yards to the Tulane 50-yardline. Eight plays later Fairley found the end zone for the first time this season closing the deficit 24-21 in favor of the Green Wave. The Lions defense would fold again as Tulane senior running back Albert Williams hauled off a 30-yard run through the left side of the defense, sending the Lions into the half down 31-24.

Coming out of the half, both defenses stiffened but the game took a dramatic change when Tulane freshman linebacker Matthew Bailey broke free through the line, blocking a Lions punt into the end zone for a safety, increasing the Tulane lead 33-24 with 08:55 left in the third quarter.

“We have to protect the punter; we can’t allow those things to happen. That makes me sick,” said Lucas.

The Green Wave would receive the ball right back, marching down the field for yet another score, but the Lions came back firing to get back in the game as Young completed a 25-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Carl Pearson, leading to a successful 30-yard field goal attempt from sophomore kicker Seth Sebastian and sending the game into the fourth quarter 40-27. Young completed 20-of-35 passes for 249 yards on the day with a lone interception.  

The Lions would battle back in the fourth with a score from Young on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, but a failed two-point conversion kept the game at a two-possession difference with time expiring and Tulane handing the Lions their first loss of the year 47-33.   

“I feel very confident, we’ll get it together, look at the game film and we’ll be alright,” said Young.