NATCHITOCHES – Phillip Harvey's 97-yard kickoff return put Northwestern State on top to stay Saturday night as the Demons rode a stout defense and three Brad Henderson touchdown passes to a 45-14 non-conference football victory over Mississippi Valley State.
Northwestern (2-2) wrapped up its non-conference schedule with the win over the Delta Devils (1-3) in the first-ever contest between the schools. It was the eighth win in nine tries this century over a Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent for NSU, which opens Southland Conference play on the road next Saturday at McNeese State.
Mississippi Valley managed only 241 yards and scored once offensively. Henderson threw TD passes of 23, 1 and 6 yards while going 19-of-25 with no interceptions for 127 yards.
Harvey, a senior who became the Demons' career kickoff return yardage leader in the season opener, posted his second career return TD with the third-longest runback in school history, the best since 1970. It answered a 23-yard fumble return touchdown on the previous play by the Delta Devils' Javaris Fritz and lifted NSU up 14-7 with 6:39 showing in the opening quarter.
Henderson's first touchdown toss, a 23-yarder to Louis Hollier, came on NSU's next series and made it 21-7. Henderson flipped a 1-yarder to tight end Chris Dever 3:38 before halftime for a 28-7 lead.
Mississippi Valley opened the second half with its only scoring drive, a 9-play, 70-yard march wrapped up by Trey Bateaste's 2-yard run midway through the third quarter to draw within 28-14.
Northwestern scored on three straight series ending the third quarter and opening the final period to put the game away.
The Demons drove 70 yards on seven plays, triggered by a 42-yard halfback pass from Rumeall Morris to Hollier, and netted a 27-yard John Shaughnessy field goal with 2:03 left in the third quarter to pad the margin to 31-14.
They went 81 yards on seven snaps to go ahead 38-14 on the ensuing possession, with Morris pounding across from the 1 with 11:58 remaining. Two snaps earlier, Morris shook off two tacklers on a 58-yard run that came immediately after Henderson scampered 21 yards on a third-and-13 from NSU's 16.
Henderson capped the scoring with 5:59 remaining when he and Corey Simmons combined on a 6-yard touchdown pass.
"We had to fight for this one and for that, we have to credit Mississippi Valley. They kept battling and were tough to put away," said fourth-year NSU coach Bradley Dale Peveto. "They've got a really fine defense and some very explosive, talented players. I was proud of how we stepped up and took control of the game midway through the second half."
Senior safety Jamaal White, with eight stops, and senior linebacker Derek Rose (six) spearheaded NSU's defense, which came up big after Valley's Brandon Powe blocked a punt giving the Delta Devils possession at the NSU 19 with 6:22 to go in the third period.
Rose had a tackle for loss on first down as the Demons forced a three-and-out and Kevin Monzon missed a 36-yard field goal that could have gotten Valley within 28-17.