NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) - It was the perfect way to finish the kind of spring practice Northwestern State football team needed.
Clay Holgorsen connected with Cameron Lazare for a 6-yard game-winning touchdown pass on a fade route with 12 seconds left Saturday morning, giving the White team a 17-14 victory in the Demons’ 28th Annual Joe Delaney Bowl spring football game at Turpin Stadium.
“The game backed up the way spring has gone. It’s been very competitive every day,” said fifth-year head coach Jay Thomas. “I would say it’s been the best spring practice since I’ve been here.”
Winning the Delaney Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player honor, Holgorsen went 18 of 22 for 154 yards and two touchdowns to lead three productive quarterbacks combining for 34 of 52 aim for 366 yards and three touchdowns, with the only interception coming on a Hail Mary play at the end of the first half.
Senior end Lyn Clark captured the Delaney Bowl Defensive MVP award with that interception, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup, a quarterback hurry and five tackles.
“It means a lot to me because of the name Joe Delaney,” said Clark, “but my teammates are the real MVPs. This is the best spring since I’ve been here. We come to work every day and get better.”
Holgorsen, a junior college transfer, bragged on his teammates as well. The Demons added 142 yards rushing on 30 carries for a total offense output of 508 yards on 82 plays, losing one fumble.
“We really accomplished a lot today on offense,” he said. “The O-line did an amazing job. We couldn’t have gone down and won the game if it wasn’t for the O-line. The receivers ran the right routes, and the running backs ran hard.”
His junior college teammate, Marquisian Chapman, started the scoring for the White team with a 60-yard catch and run down the Purple sideline on a pass from Kenny Sears (7-13-1, 127 yards) near the end of the first quarter.
Holgorsen led an eight-play, 70-yard drive to tie the game 30 seconds before halftime when LSU transfer Jazz Ferguson caught a 12-yard touchdown pass for the Purple. The White regained the lead on its first series after halftime as senior quarterback J.D. Almond led a 41-yard drive that produced a 40-yard Eric Piccione field goal.
Junior Nigel Dora danced 24 yards for a touchdown with 9:15 left that capped a 65-yard Purple drive and produced a 14-10 advantage. But a holding penalty wiped out a 35-yard run past midfield by redshirt freshman Tyreik Campbell and helped thwart the Purple’s bid to run out the clock against the wind. A short punt gave the White possession at the Purple’s 36 with 2:08 left, and Holgorsen and Lazare connected three times, for 19, 9 and the game-winning 6-yarder.
“Some hit and miss today,” said new offensive coordinator Kyle Manley. “We lost a fumble that ended a good drive, and we had some key drops, but we also had some good drives where we punched it in. Those guys on defense are doing some really good stuff so it was a really good challenge all spring and again today.”
Said new defensive coordinator Brad Laird: “It was a good day. It came down to the last series. I thought both teams played extremely hard. I was proud of the guys for coming out and finishing some of the things they’ve done in 14 practices.”
The Delaney Bowl was NSU’s 15th and final spring practice.
Two remarkable supporters were back as guest coaches. Retired military officer Norm Hicks rose to 3-0 in his Delaney Bowl coaching career. Former defensive tackle John Evans had his previously unbeaten record in Delaney Bowl coaching duties spoiled by the late penalty and subsequent by the White.
At halftime, the Demons honored 12 people with the annual Legendary Link Awards, presented for significant impact on the football program as former players, former coaches or supporters.
The group included Coaches Cabinet Association leader John Abraham, nose guard (1981-84) Bryan Arceneaux, cornerback (1980-82) Terry Bertrand, assistant coach (1983-94) and administrator (1994-2008) Donnie Cox, linebacker (1983) and Demon Sports Network radio analyst Richard deVargas, and free safety (1976-79) J.P. Dunbar.
The other six Legendary Links were given to retired NFL liason and fieldhouse coordinator Thomas Foster, safety (1979-82) Steve Graf, offensive lineman (1956-57) Bryant Lewis, tailback Kenneth Mosley (1982-84), quarterback (1967-70) Mike Pool, and running back (1973-76) Sidney Thornton.