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Lions suffer defeat at home opener

By Jonathan Rhodes
On September 12, 2017

Sophomore wide receiver Juwan Petit-Frere took it to the house after receiving a kickoff and went 92 yards for a touchdown. This is the second week in a row that the Lions have scored from special teams and the first time they have scored from a kickoff since 2013. Jonathan Rhodes/The Lion’s Roar

The first home game for the Lions football team did not end the way that they wanted it to. They lost to Bethune-Cookman University 28-23 in what is only their second home opening loss in the past 15 years.

Head Coach Ron Roberts was dissatisfied with the effort from the Lions throughout the game.

“Obviously, a disappointing loss,” said Roberts. “I’m not so much disappointed in the loss as I’m disappointed in the way that we played. Too many mistakes and too many missed opportunities. We just did not make the jump of consistency that I was hoping we were going to make.”

According to Roberts, the Lions did not underestimate the Wildcats and knew that it would be a hard-fought game that both teams had a chance to win.

“They are a good football team,” said Roberts. “We knew that going in. We knew that their quarterback and their receiver were who they are, so it was no surprise there. Those guys are legit, and we struggled to tackle them. We had our opportunities to knock the door shut, and we didn’t do it.”

Both teams turned the ball over three times during the game. The last two turnovers for the Lions happened in the second half, ending drives that could have cinched the games for the Lions.

“It’s hard to win when you turn the ball over,” said Roberts. “When you lose the turnover battle, it’s tough. It’s not easy to overcome. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the ball.” 

Junior quarterback Donovan Isom started because starting sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Nunez was not clear to play with his injury he sustained in the game against UL Lafayette. Isom threw three interceptions in his first start since 2015 and had 86 rushing yards and only 93 passing yards.

“I’m sure there are some throws that he would like to have back,” said Roberts. “Our play calling did change quite a bit, but it is what it is.”

Senior defensive back Max Lyons recorded 17 tackles, which is his career high as of now. Senior linebacker Sione Teuhema and junior linebacker Tamarcus Russell forced two separate fumbles and senior defensive back Mayori Ellison caught an interception and broke up three passes.

The defense did however struggle to stop the Wildcats on a couple of third and long plays.

“That was big, especially the first two in the first half,” said Roberts. “I don’t know how many sacks their quarterback evaded, but he must have slipped out of six or seven of them. And we missed tackles too and got caught with busted coverage. That’s the disappointing part right there. We had trouble adjusting to the speed of their receivers.”

The Lions had 10 penalties that caused them 85 yards. Even though that is less than what the Wildcats had penalties wise, Roberts is not happy with the timing of the penalties.

“A lot of them came at some inopportune times,” said Roberts. “That’s just not clean football. That’s not what I was expecting to see in this game.”

The Lions scored every time they reached the red zone, but three of those times, they only came away with three points instead of seven.

“We kind of stalled there in the red zone, which you can’t do,” said Roberts. “We had a chance to put 21 points on the board, and we only scored nine.”

The highlight of the game was the 92-yard kickoff run returned for a touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Juwan Petit-Frere that, at the time, put the Lions up 23-21.

“At the time that he did it was a big-time return,” said Roberts. “He’s capable of doing that and he is going to be a really good player for us.”

The Lions will begin conference play on the road against the University of Central Arkansas this Saturday at 7:15 p.m. 

 

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