Playing short-handed is not a foreign concept in soccer or hockey. When it comes to football, though, it’s not exactly the norm.
While Lamar didn’t take the field with 10 men against Nicholls State last Saturday, the sidelines were a lot less crowded than usual at kickoff because Cardinals head coach Ray Woodard suspended 20 players for the first half due to “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Many of the missing were starters, forcing a bevy of reserves to step up and lead the Cardinals to their first Southland Conference win. Improbably, that’s precisely what they did. Though the suspended players returned for the second half, their replacements set the tone for the 56-34 win.
“I had a choice to make — maybe sacrifice a win in order to keep discipline and rules intact,” Woodard said. “I’ve done it in the past with a player or two, but never this many. With that large a number it could have cost us the game.”
Whether it was some case of karma paying off for doing the right thing, or just a mad scientist bit of genius, Woodard could not have asked for a better result.
“It energized us,” Woodard said. “A number of players that hadn’t played made contributions. I was very proud of the way we played. It could do wonders for us … it really strengthened us. It always makes you look good when it turns out this way. I’m glad it worked out.”
• NO LOSERS: With Lamar and Northwestern State both winning last week, no team will go winless in conference play, the first time that has happened in three years.
The last time the league was balanced enough to have multiple playoff teams and no one winless at the bottom was 2005, when Texas State and Nicholls reached the postseason.
• EVERYTHING’S COMING UP SLU: Southeastern Louisiana finds itself sitting in pretty good shape in the race for its first Southland title and the league’s automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Should the Lions lose to Sam Houston State in two weeks and end up in a three-way tie with the Bearkats and McNeese at 6-1, SLU would win the three-way tiebreaker because it has gone the longest since earning the league’s auto bid — in this case, never.
The only path to the automatic berth for McNeese is to have SLU lose two of its three remaining games while the Cowboys win out.
Multiple human projections and computer models indicate the Cowboys are safely an at-large team if they win out regardless of how SLU fares.
The Lions travel to Central Arkansas this week.
• BLACK JACK? Sam Houston State is going for its 21st consecutive home victory Saturday when it hosts Nicholls. The Bearkats’ streak is the longest in Division I, one game ahead of Michigan.
It will be senior day for the Bearkats, who will spend the final two weeks on the road.
• WELL, IT’S SOMETHING: Sometimes it’s the little things in life that get you through the day. And after a third consecutive loss, Nicholls coach Charlie Stubbs found one of those things.
“It’s the first time this year we’ve made all our PATs and field goal attempts here at Nicholls, so that’s an accomplishment,” Stubbs said.