NATCHITOCHES, La. -- After cashing in on a dominating defensive performance for a road win last Saturday night, Northwestern State looks to follow the same formula Saturday afternoon in Turpin Stadium in a 4 o’clock Southland Conference contest against Abilene Christian.
The kickoff was moved up two hours from the original 6 p.m. start to give fans the opportunity to watch the 7 p.m. LSU at Alabama contest. It’s Military Appreciation Day and NSU Faculty/Staff Day. Active military personnel and veterans can buy $5 general admission tickets at the stadium. All NSU faculty and staff have the opportunity until game day to claim free tickets through the NSU Athletic Ticket Office.
Both teams are 2-6 overall, 2-4 in the Southland Conference. While the Demons posted a 10-7 victory last Saturday at Houston Baptist, the Wildcats had an open date.
NSU’s Purple Swarm defense was 65 seconds shy of a shutout last Saturday and allowed only 259 total yards while recording 13 tackles for loss, including eight quarterback sacks, fifth-best in the nation’s FCS ranks this season.
Senior linebacker Peyton Guidry made a career-best 14 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, and forced two fumbles while breaking up a pass. That earned him national and state defensive player of the week honors.
Meanwhile, junior quarterback Clay Holgorsen led the Demon offense to scores on its last two possessions to pull out the win. A 65-yard drive ended by a 22-yard run up the middle untouched by senior tailback Chris Jones gave NSU a 7-0 lead. After Houston Baptist scored the tying touchdown with 1:05 to go, the Demons won it on the final play when senior Eric Piccione drilled a 36-yard field goal.
The ACU matchup presents similarities for the Demons, said head coach Jay Thomas.
“HBU was very good defensively, and ACU is, too. They don’t give up much and we’ll have to earn everything we get offensively,” he said. “That means we’ve got to be really strong on defense to keep them under wraps.”
Senior linebacker Nick Pierotti leads the Purple Swarm defense with 69 tackles, while Guidry and another senior linebacker, Chrishard Buhl, each have 50. NSU’s defense will get a boost with the return of junior cornerback Ike Warren, who missed last week’s game with a mild concussion sustained in practice. He has 10 pass breakups and three interceptions this season, and six pickoffs in his last nine contests.
Jones, a senior, tops the running game for NSU with 503 yards and four touchdowns. Top receivers are senior Cameron Lazare (27-241) and junior Marquisian Chapman (23-196), along with deep threat Jaylen Watson, a junior with a 16.8 average per catch (22-370) and a team-best three touchdown catches.
Senior quarterback J.D. Almond will be honored pregame as the 2017 recipient of the Jack Clayton Scholarship given to a Demon player who has displayed outstanding leadership, character and performance.
ACU has lost 15 of its last 16 road games, and has dropped its last three contests this season under first-year coach Adam Dorrel. The Wildcats’ first three Southland defeats were by 10 or less points. They have the Southland’s No. 3-ranked passing attack (237.3 average).
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.
Next Saturday, the Demons visit McNeese before wrapping up 2017 on Nov. 18 in Turpin Stadium against Stephen F. Austin.