LAKE CHARLES, LA -- Northwestern State is finally winning the close ones. Saturday, the Demons try to clear another hurdle and beat a nationally-ranked opponent, their biggest rivals, the McNeese Cowboys.
NSU visits McNeese in a 6 o’clock Southland Conference football contest on Louis Bonnette Field at Cowboy Stadium. The Demons, riding the momentum of two last-play victories, are 3-4 in Southland games, 3-6 overall, while the 20th-ranked Cowboys are 5-2 in the league and 7-2 overall.
The game is being televised by Cox Sports Television, with NSU alumni Lyn Rollins and Carley McCord joined by veteran analyst Rene Nadeau. For communities not served by a cable system that carries CST, the telecast is accessible on DirecTV channel 790 or ESPN3 online.
NSU’s radio coverage is on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches. Affiliates are News Radio 710 KEEL AM in Shreveport, 105.5 KBUCK FM in Alexandria and KWLA 103.1 FM serving Many and Leesville. Patrick Netherton and Tony Taglavore will call the action.
A live video stream is available at NSUDemons.com. For live updates throughout the game, follow @NSUDemonsFB on Twitter.
The Demons won 26-23 in overtime last Saturday over Abilene Christian, while the Cowboys rallied in the second half to post a homefield 13-3 victory over Southeastern Louisiana.
NSU is aiming for its first triumph over a Top 25-ranked foe since 2014. McNeese will be the fifth ranked opponent the Demons have encountered this year, and in the first four meetings, three of the outcomes have been decided in the fourth quarter, including late losses at No. 4 Sam Houston State (40-36, with the Bearkats scoring the decisive points with 1:05 remaining) and No. 23 Nicholls (14-10, the winning TD scoring with 3:45 to play).
The Cowboys, who have played only one ranked opponent (losing 47-17 at No. 3 Central Arkansas), have the top-ranked defense in FCS, allowing only 250 yards per game. McNeese also ranks first nationally in rush defense, permitting just 60 yards per game.
In a rivalry renewed every year since 1951, the Cowboys have taken control this century, winning the last 12 since a Demon rout in 2004. McNeese has won 22 of the last 25 meetings and has not lost to NSU in Lake Charles since 1988.
A dozen of the last 19 NSU-McNeese matchups have been settled by a touchdown or less, including seven of the last 12.
The Demons will be led on offense by senior running back Chris Jones, who posted his third 100-yard rushing game of 2017 with 110 yards on 17 carries in the ACU win. Junior quarterback Clay Holgorsen, who sat out the second half of last week’s game with a shoulder injury, has practiced all week and will start.
Senior Cameron Lazare (29 catches, 258 yards), junior Marquisian Chapman (25-222, 1 TD), junior Jaylen Watson (24-384, 3 TDs) and senior Bobby Chan-Chan (21-313, 2 TDs) are the top receivers for the Demons.
NSU lost its leading tackler, senior linebacker Nick Pierotti, for the rest of the season with a broken ankle in the fourth quarter last week. The Demons’ top stoppers are senior linebackers Peyton Guidry (61 tackles) and Chrishard Buhl (60) followed closely by sophomore Ryan Reed (56).
The Demons’ Purple Swarm defense has notched 13 tackles for loss each of the last two games. That total is the 16th-best single-game mark nationally this season in the FCS.
Kicker Eric Piccione has nailed 11 of 14 field goals, including game-winners in the last two weeks. His 39-yarder in overtime made the difference last week.
Next Saturday afternoon at 3, the Demons wrap up 2017 in Turpin Stadium against Stephen F. Austin.