No. 24 Southeastern rallies for 45-44 FCS Playoff win over No. 8 Villanova
The six years it took for playoff football to return to Hammond, America was worth the wait.
CJ Turner hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass from Chason Virgil with just under three minutes remaining to give No. 24 Southeastern Louisiana a come-from-behind 45-44 victory over No. 8 Villanova in the first round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs Saturday evening in Strawberry Stadium.
Southeastern (8-4) racked up 602 yards of offense on the Wildcats (9-4), erasing a 17-point halftime deficit on the way to its first postseason win since 2013. The Lions advance to face No. 6 Montana in the second round at 2 p.m. Saturday in Missoula, Montana.
“Our guys believed and competed for 60 minutes,” Southeastern head football coach Frank Scelfo said in a news release. “Villanova is a great team, and we had to give our best effort to win. I’m so proud of our guys and how they never gave up.”
Villanova had one last chance in the final minutes, but an all-out blitz forced Wildcat quarterback Daniel Smith’s fourth-down throw to Jaaron Hayek to sail high. The Lions kneeled it out from there to secure the victory.
Virgil threw for a career-high 474 yards — the third-highest in program history — three touchdowns and an interception on 36-of-49 passing. The trio of Turner (11 catches, 173 yards, two touchdowns), Javon Conner (nine catches, 102 yards and one touchdown) and Bransen Schwebel (six catches, 119 yards) gave Southeastern three receivers over 100 yards in the same game for the first time ever.
Devonte Williams led the SLU rushing attack with 12 carries for 78 yards and a score. Cole Kelley rushed for two scores, giving him a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns this season. Kelley is the first Lion to reach double-digit rushing touchdowns in a season since Bryan Bennett in 2014.
Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund led SLU with 11 tackles, while Tre’ Spann had a team-high two tackles for loss. Ronald Cherry III and David Fields each recorded sacks for the Lions.
Smith threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 19-for-30 passing.
Hayek was his top target with six catches for 105 yards and a score.
Smith also rushed for a team-high 90 yards and a touchdown to lead the Villanova ground game.
Defensively, Forrest Rhyne finished with 11 tackles and a tackle for loss to lead Villanova. Elijah Glover also returned an interception 78 yards for a touchdown.