THIBODAUX – As the Northwestern State football team returns from its bye week, not much has changed in terms of the Demons’ upcoming opponent.
When the Demons (0-5, 0-2) travel to Guidry Stadium for Saturday’s 3:07 p.m. Southland Conference tilt with No. 12 Nicholls (3-2, 2-0), it marks another matchup with a ranked team – the fourth such meeting this year. The game can be seen on CST and can be heard on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 94.9 FM The River in Natchitoches and including 710 AM KEEL in Shreveport and 105.5 KBKK in Alexandria. Free streaming audio is available on www.NSUDemons.com and through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, available to download free through the Apple Store or Google Play.
“The thing about our conference, week in and week out, ranked or not ranked, you’re going to get a battle,” second-year head coach Brad Laird said. “There is a lot of parity in the conference. Nicholls, that being their first home game last week against Central Arkansas, you could tell that was probably their most complete game.”
The visit to Nicholls follows games against nationally ranked squads Midwestern State (then-No. 16 in Division II) on Sept. 7, then-No. 4/5 LSU on Sept. 14 and then-No. 19/22 Southeastern Louisiana in Northwestern State’s most recent game Sept. 28.
Now a Colonels team that was picked to win the Southland Conference championship in the league’s preseason poll awaits a rested Demons team, one that is ready to return to action after its open week.
“I’m itching,” said senior tackle Jonathan Hubbard, who is part of an offensive line that has rolled out the same starting lineup in all five games this season. “I’m ready to get after it.”
The Demons have dropped the past three games to the Colonels, a run that started with the arrival of head coach Tim Rebowe, quarterback Chase Fourcade and defensive lineman Sully Laiche in Thibodaux.
In an Oct. 5 win against Central Arkansas, Fourcade surpassed the 10,000-yard career mark in total offense, becoming the seventh player in conference history to do so.
“He drives the bus,” Laird said. “The leadership capabilities he shows, you see it on film, you see it live. Whether he’s throwing the ball or running the ball, he’s a leader. Same thing with Sully on the defensive side of the ball. It’s very similar. They have put the pieces in the puzzle from a football and a facilities perspective. The success they have had the past couple of years got them where they were in the preseason and now as a top-(12) team. We’re excited about our opportunity to showcase what we can be Saturday.”
Laird preached the importance of consistency in all three phases Saturday as being a key.
Another is the benefit of having the previous Saturday off from playing. The extra week allowed Laird and his staff to mix in some rest and recovery while keeping the team sharp.
“We were able to get some guys going who have not stepped on the field in a limited aspect during open week,” Laird said. “Over the course of the first five weeks, you have guys who have played 60-70 snaps per game. That’s 300-plus significant snaps they’ve taken. Some guys needed the break, but it’s a fine line, because there were things we needed to get better at, like third downs and in the red zone. Those were big emphases. You saw a combination of some live work last week with guys who may not have had significant reps and some situational work with guys we needed to improve on from the first five weeks.”
One thing that remained the same was the coaching staff’s approach to preparing for game week.
“We’re staying the course,” senior defensive end Desmond Prejean said. “The coaches have told us to stay the course and believe in yourself.”