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Cardinals set to enter Lion’s Den

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University football team places its perfect Southland Conference record on the line Thursday when it travels to Hammond, La., to take on the 22nd-ranked Southeastern Louisiana Lions. The game against SLU will end one of the nation’s toughest road swings for any team at any level. After opening the season at home with a victory over Bacone College, the Cardinals (2-1/1-0 SLC) faced the daunting task of traveling to No. 4 Baylor, No. 3 Sam Houston State and now close out the trip at SLU. The Cardinals are the only FCS squad this season who has played a preseason top-five FBS team followed by a top-FCS team on the road.

The Lions are defending Southland Conference co-champions, and enter the week with an identical 2-1 record, but are coming off a tough 35-14 setback at Ohio nearly two weeks ago. SLU trailed by only seven points late in the contest before the Bobcats added two late scores. In a unique schedule twist, both teams enter the game coming off a bye week.

“This game was always going to be a big,” said head coach Ray Woodard. “Southeastern is a great team already, and our win over Sam Houston State has made it bigger. We knew it was going to be challenging starting conference play on the road against the two preseason favorites. What a great opportunity we have ahead of us, if we can go to Hammond and pick up a win.

“(Southeastern) is very similar to how the team looked last year. Obviously, they are having to replace a very talented quarterback in Bennett, but you can see on film how their current quarterbacks are getting better each week. This is a very talented team that has won championships and played in the postseason. We have our work cut out for us,” added Woodard.

The Cardinals enter the week looking to recapture the spark which led to one of the biggest wins in program history – a three-point upset at No. 3 Sam Houston State, 49-46. In the contest the Cardinals recorded nearly 560 yards of total offense, including 328 on the ground. Junior running back Kade Harrington led the assault with 24 carries for 230 yards and two touchdowns – the second best single-game rushing performance in program history. He also caught two passes for 83 yards and a score which broke a nearly 63-year old single-game school record for all-purpose yards.

For the Lions, they look to continue the trend that has seen them win at least a share of the past two Southland Conference titles, and advance to the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Despite the loss of a former player of the year at quarterback, SLU once again finds itself ranked among the nation’s top 25.

The Lions enter the rare Thursday night contest with a punishing ground attack and one of the nation’s top defenses. SLU ranks third in the conference behind the Cardinals (255 ypg) and Sam Houston State (252 ypg) in rushing offense averaging 250 yards per contest. The Lions also rank among the league’s top three in scoring (24.0 ppg), total (383 ypg) and rush defense (75 ypg). The game could come down to which team flexes its muscle first as LU ranks among the league’s top two in scoring, total and rush offense.

“Their secondary is very talented,” said Woodard. “They will play some zone, and try to disguise what they do, then they will man up on you. Southeastern can play man as good as anyone we are going to see all season. They did that to us last year. We are going to have to do a good job of running the ball, as well as giving our quarterback a little extra time to throw the football.”

For the third consecutive week, the Cardinals will be playing a game on television. It will be the second-straight week LU will appear on the American Sports Network. The game can be seen on DirecTV channel 681, and Dish Network channel 413 for fans who have the sports package. The game can also be seen on KBTV sub channel 4.2 (Bounce TV) with a digital antenna, or on Time Warner channel 1248.

The Cardinals have had some success in Strawberry Stadium since the return of the sport to Beaumont. LU has won two of its three games in Hammond since 2010, including its first Southland win. The Cardinals are 3-4 (.429) all-time against SLU, but 2-2 (.500) in Hammond. Big Red enters Thursday’s showdown looking to put an end to a three-game slide against the Lions.