Southland Football Season Kicks Off Thursday

Sports

FRISCO, Texas – The 58th season of Southland Conference football kicks off Thursday with a pair of primetime starts as UIW visits Youngstown State at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+ and HBU starts the year at New Mexico at 7 p.m.

Saturday’s action begins with McNeese hosting 2019 Division II National Champion West Florida at noon on Cox Sports Television (available out of market on ESPN+). Two games are set for 6 p.m. starts on ESPN+ as Nicholls will take on Memphis and Southeastern is set to face North Alabama. Northwestern State wraps up the opening slate of games with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff at North Texas on ESPN3.

Two Southland schools are ranked nationally in preseason top 25 polls, led by Southeastern at No. 15 in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and No. 17 in the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll. Nicholls comes in at No. 22/23, respectively, and UIW received votes in the Stats Perform preseason poll.

 
After earning just one bid in last year’s reduced postseason field in the form of eventual national champion Sam Houston, the Southland aims for its 11th-straight season with multiple postseason berths in a 24-team field.

Conference play gets underway Sept. 25, opening a unique format of league games in which each school plays a home-and-home with three opponents and a single game against the other two.
 
Southeastern Lions – Preseason Ranking: 1st – 2020 Record/Place: 4-3 (4-2 SLC), 2nd

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 16
  • Starters returning/lost: 23/3
  • Southland Conference championships (last): 2 (2014)
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Cole Kelley – Senior – Quarterback (210-for-305 | 2,662 YDS | 18 TD | 7 rushing TD)
      • 2020-21 Walter Payton Award winner (FCS offensive player of the year)
      • 2021 First Team Preseason All-American
      • 2021 Walter Payton Award, Senior Bowl and CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch Lists
    • Ferlando Jordan – Redshirt Junior – Cornerback (28 TKL | 1 TFL | 1 FF | 2 INT | 6 PBU)
      • Two-time All-American (2019-20)
      • 2021 First Team Preseason All-American and Buck Buchanan Award Watch List
      • Top-five in Southland history in career interception return yards (300) and touchdowns (3)

Nicholls Colonels – Preseason Ranking: 2nd – 2020 Record/Place: 4-3 (3-3 SLC), t-3rd

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 11
  • Starters returning/lost: 23/2
  • Southland Conference championships (last): 3 (2019)
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Dai’Jean Dixon – Senior – Wide Receiver (35 REC | 514 YDS | 7 TD)
      • 2021 Second-Team Preseason All-American
      • 2021 Walter Payton Award, Senior Bowl and CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch Lists
      • Ranks eighth in Southland history in career receiving yards (2,800) and touchdowns (27)
    • P.J. Burkhalter – Senior – Offensive Lineman (Started all games at left guard)
      • Only two-time recipient of Southland Offensive Lineman of the Year Award (2019-20)
      • Three-time First-Team All-American (2018-20)
      • 2021 First-Team Preseason All-American


UIW Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 3rd – 2020 Record/Place: 3-3 (3-3 SLC), t-3rd

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 15
  • Starters returning/lost: 24/2
  • Southland Conference championships (last): 1 (2018)
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Cameron Ward – Sophomore – Quarterback (183-for-303 | 2,260 YDS | 24 TD | 4 INT)
      • 2020-21 Jerry Rice Award winner (FCS freshman of the year)
      • 2021 Third-Team Preseason All-American
      • 2021 Walter Payton Award and CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch Lists
      • Led all FCS quarterbacks with 24 touchdown passes
    • Kevin Brown – Graduate Student – Running Back (74 ATT | 775 YDS | 5 TD | 10.5 YPC)
      • 2020 Second-Team All-American
      • 2021 Second-Team Preseason All-American and CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch List
      • Led all FCS running backs in yards per carry (10.47)

McNeese Cowboys – Preseason Ranking: 4th – 2020 Record/Place: 3-4 (2-4 SLC), t-5th

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 6
  • Starters returning/lost: 21/5
  • Southland Conference championships (last): 14 (2015)
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Cody Orgeron – Senior – Quarterback (119-for-194 | 1,560 YDS | 10 TD | 257 YDS rushing)
      • Led team in rushing in 2020
      • Enters the season with 91 consecutive pass attempts without an interception
      • Son of LSU head coach Ed Orgeron (McNeese plays at LSU on Sept. 11)
    • Isaiah Chambers – Graduate Student – Defensive End (32 TKL | 14 TFL | 7.5 SCK | 11 QBH)
      • Finished fourth in 2020-21 Buck Buchanan Award voting
      • 2020 Consensus First-Team All-American
      • 2021 First-Team Preseason All-American and Buck Buchanan Award and Senior Bowl Watch Lists

Northwestern State Demons – Preseason Ranking: 5th – 2020 Record/Place: 1-5 (1-5 SLC), 7th

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 9
  • Starters returning/lost: 19/6
  • Southland Conference championships (last): 4 (2004)
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Scooter Adams – Junior – Running Back (85 ATT | 681 YDS | 7 TD | 8.0 YPC)
      • 2020 First-Team All-Southland Conference
      • 2021 CFPA National Performer of the Year Watch List
    • Jomard Valsin – Junior – Linebacker (54 TKL | 8 TFL | 3 SCK | 3 forced fumbles)
      • 2020 Second-Team All-American
      • Led team and ranked third in Southland with 54 total tackles this spring

Houston Baptist Huskies – Preseason Ranking: 6th – 2020 Record/Place: 1-3

  • Preseason All-Conference selections: 6
  • Starters returning/lost: 17/10
  • Southland Conference championships (last): N/A
  • Top Players (2020-21 stats):
    • Dreshawn Minnieweather – Senior – Running Back (105 ATT | 723 YDS | 7 TD in 2019)
      • Only played one game in 2020 due to injury
      • Averaged 7.4 yards per touch with 723 yards rushing and 141 yards receiving in 2019
    • Patrick Wolfe – Senior – Safety (32 TKL | 2 INT | 4 PBU | 1 fumble recovery)
      • 2020 First-Team All-Southland Conference

{Press release courtesy of the Southland Conference}

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