Laird praises attitude, effort in first fall scrimmage

NATCHITOCHES – Overcast skies and cooler temperatures made Turpin Stadium feel like the right place to be Sunday afternoon.

For the Northwestern State football team, there was no better time and place as the Demons went through their first intrasquad scrimmage of their fall camp.

And befitting the cooler weather, the physical Demon defensive line enjoyed a strong start in the first of three scheduled scrimmages.

“It felt like an early spring scrimmage since the weather changed a couple of days ago,” third-year head coach Brad Laird said. “We got about 90 snaps – we were looking at 90 to 100 snaps of live action. To get 90 live reps on film, in different situations, was great. Today was the first day we ran the two-minute drill. For both sides to be able to get live work was big.”

The Demon offense totaled 377 yards on nearly 90 snaps, but the Purple Swarm defense put its counterparts in several second- and third-and-long situations as it collected six tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.

Freshman linebacker Princeton Malbrue led the NSU defense with three tackles for loss and added a sack and a pass breakup in his first action as a collegian.

“I knew I had to come out and play with the first team this week, so I got the butterflies out of the way early,” said Malbrue, who came to NSU from Lafayette Christian Academy. “This scheme is a lot like the one we ran in high school, and I’m familiar with (defensive coordinator) coach (Mike) Lucas, so it was pretty straightforward.”

Malbrue took advantage of a strong performance by the Demon defensive line, which kept the NSU offense off balance for much of the two-plus-hour scrimmage.

“You saw a lot of penetration up front on the defensive line while they held up against the run,” Laird said. “When it got time to rush the passer – coach Lucas always talks about earning the right to rush the passer – they got after it. They gave great effort. I told the whole team they gave great effort and had a good attitude. Now it’s about being consistent and correcting the things we see on tape.”

The Demons went through numerous situations Sunday afternoon, including their first two-minute drill work of the fall camp.

After the Purple Swarm forced the offense off the field in the first two-minute drill, quarterback Bryce Rivers and receivers Marquise Bridges and Coby McGee set up Cayden Dunn’s 14-yard touchdown on the final play of the day.

McGee, who earlier caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Rivers, hauled in a 21-yard pass on the third play of the drive before Bridges made a sliding 29-yard grab in the middle of the field to convert a fourth down and set up Dunn’s touchdown run.

“It was a key down and distance, so I knew I had to make a play,” said Bridges, who went through the abbreviated spring drills after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community college. “I’ve been working all offseason to make plays like that. Being able to be out on the field means so much to all of us. We finally get to go out there and play the game we love.”

Laird pointed to the adversity his team has faced between the COVID-19 pandemic and a pair of hurricanes that have affected the NSU campus this fall as being keys to bringing his team together.

He saw that result of those battles earlier in the scrimmage when McGee made a catch in the seam and bounced off a tackle to score the first touchdown of the day.

“There are positives you’ll take away from it,” Laird said. “Right now, the biggest thing is consistency. We’re doing things right, but we need to do them snap in and snap out.

“It was good to see Coby make that play. It was a bit of rebound for him to make that play. He had an opportunity earlier in the scrimmage, and it didn’t work out. In that situation, they came back to him and he made the play to score the touchdown.”

Scoring Plays

Eddie Godina 24 FG

Daniel Justino 26 FG

Coby McGee 35 pass from Bryce Rivers (Godina kick)

Godina 29 FG

Cayden Dunn 14 run (Godina kick)

Individual Statistics

RUSHING (48-180, 1 TD) – Cayden Dunn 6-53, 1 TD; Trevor Morgan 7-39; Curtis Williams 9-34; Aubrey Scott 8-26; Scooter Adams 6-15; Kaleb Fletcher 3-12; Zach Clement 8-3; Deus Desire 1-(-2).

PASSING (12-39-0 197 1 TD) – Bryce Rivers 5-13-0 107 1 TD; Zach Clement 3-11-0 52; Fletcher 4-14-0 38; Jacob Barrett 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING (12-197 1 TD) – Levar Gumms 3-33; Coby McGee 2-56; David Fitzwater 1-32; Marquise Bridges 1-29; Robbie Williams 1-20; Andy Pierre-Antoine 1-17; Trevor Morgan 1-5; Adams 1-3; Jacob Logan 1-2.

Defensive Statistics

Jomard Valsin Jr. 5 tackles; Kevin Davis  5 tackles; Princeton Malbrue 1 sack, 1 PBU, 3 TFLs, QB hurry; Landon King 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL; PJ Herrington 4 tackles, 1 PBU; Donovan Green 4 tackles, QB hurry; John-Alex Perkins 4 tackles, QB hurry; Johnathan Hudson 3 tackles 1.0 TFL; Nick Allen 3 tackles, 1 PBU; Keenan Leachman 3 tackles; Isaiah Longino 2 tackles, QB hurry; Race Moser 2 tackles, QB hurry; Malik Carey 2 tackles, 1 PBU; Kendal Harmon 2 tackles; Johnny Mitchell Jr. 2 tackles; Keshawn Jackson 2 tackles; Shemar Bartholomew 2 tackles; Jared Pedraza 2 tackles; Trey Williams 1 tackle, 1 TFL; Johnathan Daigle 1 tackle, PBU, QB hurry; Christopher Larry 1 tackle; Josh Clarke 1 tackle Dante Thomas 1 tackle; Ty Cormier 1 tackle; Maurice Farr Jr. 1 tackle; Isaiah Robinson 1 tackle; Nathalohn Nanai 1 tackle; Justin Greer 1 tackle; Tobias Williams II 1 tackle; Donovan Green 1 tackle; Cedric Anderson 1 PBU; Jalin Garrison 1 FR; Malik Williams QB hurry.