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Preview: Football Hosts Louisiana College for Home Opener

Preview: Football Hosts Louisiana College for Home Opener

The Southwestern University Pirates football team opens conference play this weekend with its first home game of the 2019 season, taking on the Louisiana College Wildcats at Birkelbach Field on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

Live Stream: SHN Sports

Tailgating: Begins five hours before the game, the tailgating policy can be found here.

History: This will be the third meeting between the two programs. In 2017, Southwestern defeated Louisiana College 37-34 on the road in the Pirates' first season in the American Southwest Conference (ASC) on a 36-yard Luke Fierst field goal with 42 seconds remaining.

Elijah Smith, then in his first year, led the Pirates in rushing with 100 yards on 20 carries, including on 25-yard run.

Louisiana College returned the favor in 2018, defeating the Pirates 21-19 in Georgetown when Southwestern's two-point conversion fell one yard short with 1:31 remaining. Both team finished with identical conference records last year at 5-4.

Season-to-Date: Louisiana College opened its season with a 58-13 road loss to NCAA Division I Stetson University in Deland, Florida and recovered with a 20-14 road win over Belhaven University with a three-touchdown, 325-yard passing performance from Landon Lalonde.

Southwestern opened its season with a dominant 47-7 victory over Sewanee, limiting the Tigers to just 22 yards rushing and forcing four turnovers while the offense, despite having new faces in key positions, showed its trademark clock-eating run game.

The Pirates had an early bye week, getting extra time to prepare for its home opener while Louisiana College is coming off two consecutive road games.

Scouting: In each of the past two seasons, the Wildcats have strayed from their base defensive principles to combat Southwestern's option attack.

"There's some uncertainty in what they're going to do defensively because they've changed matchups versus us relative to what they do to other teams," Head Coach Joe Austin said. "So it's important we know our roles and stick to our schemes."

Elijah Smith, who opened the season with 92 yards on 12 carries, has previous success against Louisiana College but did not play last season. The Wildcats are currently ninth in the ASC in rushing defense, giving up 218.5 yards per game, though that's skewed some by playing Stetson.

Louisiana College did surrender 126 yards on the ground on 3.7 yards per carry against Belhaven University, who finished at the bottom of the conference last season. Belhaven managed a 27-19 advantage in first downs and 358 yards passing but struggled to put the ball in the end zone.

Both Southwestern and Louisiana College have turned their offenses over to sophomore quarterbacks this season, though both are tasked with entirely different things.

Austin Emery directs a Pirate offense that uses the run as a crowbar to pry loose defensive secondaries, then uses it again to smash opponents with. He was effective in the season opener, rushing for three touchdowns and making most of the correct option reads. When asked to pass, he was efficient, throwing 6-for-9 for 152 yards with three touchdowns.

Landon Lalonde is asked to carry the offense more directly, attempting 30 and 41 passes through the first two games of the season.

Louisiana College has struggled to generate traction on the ground with their zone blocking run game, averaging only 62.5 yards per game (in last year's victory over Southwestern, Louisiana only manage seven net yards on 29 carries).

What the Wildcats excel at is finding the deep pass down the sideline with a pair of big play, 6-foot-1 wide receivers in Micah Dunn and Jarred Simpson.  Dunn currently leads the ASC in receiving yards per game (126.0), finishing with 100 against Stetson and 152 against Belhaven. Simpson had 149 against Belhaven with three touchdowns, and 41 yards and a touchdown against Stetson. Both have plays over 30 yards.

The Pirate defense is experienced, led by Garrett Womack, who was the ASC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1 with three tackles for losses and two sacks while the secondary came away with three interceptions against Sewanee. Look for the Pirates to attempt to limit the deep pass and force the Wildcats into its auxiliary options. 

Generating pressure up front will be vital against a Louisiana College that relies on slower developing plays and has a quarterback not prone to pulling the ball down for runs (-18 yards on five attempts this season).