Cardinals ready for tough Colonels

Published 12:18 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

BEAUMONT — How close has Lamar come to starting 2-0 in the Southland Conference this season?

Had Northwestern State not blocked an extra point and had Southeastern Louisiana failed to execute an onside kick with 33 seconds remaining, the Cardinals (1-3, 0-2 Southland) might have swept an important home stand and gone into No. 15 Nicholls State (2-2, 1-1) with some momentum.

“I think our kids know we’re a better football team,” second-year Cardinals coach Mike Schultz said Monday. “Since my arrival at Lamar University, this is the best we’ve been. That doesn’t do away with the frustration that every single player, every single coach, Lamar nation, our fan base, … they are still frustrated with not winning on Saturday afternoon.”

The Cardinals’ 49-48 loss to Northwestern State and 30-24 defeat to Southeastern Louisiana were both closer than last year’s meetings, which were on the road during a 2-9 overall (1-8 Southland) season. But Saturday’s loss to Southeastern, played before a crowd of 8,017, was the eighth straight among conference games at Provost Umphrey Stadium for the Cards, who last won in Southland play at home against Northwestern State on Oct. 15, 2016.

Two roughing-the-passer penalties on a Southeastern drive going into the fourth quarter did the Cards no favors. Linebacker David Crosley hit Chason Virgil late on an incomplete fourth-and-3 pass, and two plays later, the Lions earned a mulligan when tackle Darien Wilson was penalized on a dropped catch in the end zone. The Lions came away with a go-ahead field goal.

“We had way too many self-inflicted injuries,” Schultz said. “… Some of those led to points, and we did it in every phase of the game.”

Even after the Southeastern game, impact newcomers like fullback A.J. Walker, who rushed nine times for 88 yards, and cornerback Tyler Rios (two fumble recoveries, one forced) found positives in Lamar.

Schultz cited a positive review from senior cornerback Rodney Randle, a hometown guy who began his collegiate career under Ray Woodard.

“He said, coach, this is the best we’ve been in a long time,” Schultz said. “And he said, we’ve just got to go finish some games and win some games.”

The Colonels moved up three spots in the latest STATS FCS Top 25 poll after a 27-7 win over national semifinalist Sam Houston State, which dived from 11th.

It’s not the first time the Colonels, who made the NCAA Division I playoffs last season, have earned a statement victory this season. They opened the season with a 26-23 win at Kansas, which had won two straight before a 26-7 loss at Baylor to begin Big 12 play.

Junior quarterback Chase Fourcade, a preseason first-team All-Southland choice, has thrown for 835 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, completing a career-high 55.5 percent of his passes (66 for 119). He’s already 77 rushing yards shy of breaking his total from last year.

Fourth-year head coach Tim Rebowe has turned a program that went 0-12 before his arrival into a Southland contender. The Colonels earned a strong bounce-back from a 20-10 loss at McNeese State by dominating SHSU.

McNeese is the highest-ranked Southland team in the STATS FCS Top 25 at No. 10. Defending Southland champion Central Arkansas is 13th, Nicholls is 15th and SHSU 21st.