NSU prepares for home opener against rival Stephen F. Austin

NSU is still in search of not only their first win of the season but their first non-conference win in five seasons.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:18 PM CDT
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - We are almost a quarter of the way into football season, and for the Northwestern State Demons, they are still in search of not only their first win of the season but their first non-conference win in five seasons.

Rivalries have been the theme for the first few weeks of NSU’s schedule, with UL-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech, but week 3 may be the icing on the cake in terms of rivalries, especially for the Demons’ home opener - Stephen F. Austin.

“To have your first opener being them, it creates a great Saturday night environment in Turpin Stadium,” said Head Coach Brad Laird.

“It is exhilarating really, because everybody is excited for the first home game,” said senior linebacker Jaeden Ward. “We don’t have to go anywhere, we can just stay home, the same field we practice on. You’re going to hear the roar of the crowd. People are going to show love, it is going to be a good time.”

Two very similar cities will battle it out, Nacogdoches and Natchitoches. Stephen F. Austin will take the short trip over the Texas border to face NSU for the first time since 2019.

In 2019, the Lumberjacks took the win 32-20. The Demons have just a few players returning from the 2019 team who faced the Lumberjacks.

From week one to week two, there were improvements in the run game for the Demons, as senior quarterback Tyler Vander Waal showed his versatility against the Bulldogs, but NSU is still lacking in finding consistency.

In the past few games, Vander Waal went 10 for 24, 110 yards and one touchdown against UL-Lafayette, and against Louisiana Tech, he went 12 for 28, 134 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Third downs offensively is a position we need to continue to improve because that is going to help maintain those different drives. Keep the drives alive and be able to create momentum,” Laird said.

“Coach Laird always harps on consistency, every week he wants us to keep moving the ball, keep moving the ball. Tempo, tempo, tempo. Wearing defenses down and eventually, we will start blowing people away,” Demons’ senior wide receiver Zach Patterson said.

The Purple Swarm has given up 60 points in the last two contest but have made strides in the turnover margin forcing four.

“Guys are starting to say that this is an opportunity for us to do something special here,” Ward said. “Something we haven’t been able to do in recent years. I feel like we need to work on consistency and having that physical brutality through games. From the games we have played so far, we have had spurts of how good of a defense we could be. We just have to do it for four quarters.”

“Takeaway four long touchdown runs and instead of averaging 9.7 yards a carry. They only averaged 2.6. So that is one thing, we want to be able to stop the run. Pass coverage was good last week against a quality quarterback,” Laird said.

The Demons will face the Lumberjacks in their 77th meeting since 1924 on Saturday in Turpin at 6 p.m.

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