NATCHITOCHES, LA. (NSU) - Northwestern State scored 28 points in one quarter Saturday, but the Demons couldn’t find points in any other quarter in a 42-28 loss to No. 14 Sam Houston State.
NSU (2-4, 1-3 Southland Conference) surged to a 28-23 halftime lead, but the Bearkats controlled the second half by scoring all 19 points and outgaining NSU 339-154 in the half.
SHSU’s 563 offensive yards is the most NSU has allowed to an FCS opponent this season, although the Demons crossed the 400-yard mark (432 yards) for the fourth time this season.
“We had some opportunities early in the second half, but we didn’t take advantage, including a (Shelton Eppler) interception to start the half,” said NSU coach Brad Laird. “(SHSU) also ran the ball more effectively in the second half, and we got hemmed in inside and they bounced it.
“I’m proud of the way we battled back from being 14 points down. But we’re still working to be where we want to be.”
Trailing 14-0, NSU scored 21 consecutive points before Hayden Bourgeois intercepted an SHSU pass and returned it 55 yards for the 28-23 advantage with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The last time NSU scored 28 points in a period was against Incarnate Word of a 49-12 win in 2014.
Bourgeois has five interceptions this season and was second in tackles to safety Ryan Reed (11 tackles).
“(SHSU) ran a wheel route, and I just read the quarterback and made the play,” Bourgeois said. “We blitzed the young quarterback a lot tonight.
“But (being close) is just part of football, and you work hard, and sometimes you’re successful and sometimes you’re not.”
Junior receiver Jazz Ferguson caught two of Shelton Eppler’s three touchdown passes as his 28-yard scoring catch on the first play of the second quarter set off the Demon blitzkrieg of points.
Ferguson posted his fourth 100-yard receiving games with 138 yards on nine catches.
After Eppler fumbled on the 2-yard line, the Demons forced a punt as Eppler atoned with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Quan Shorts to tie the score 14-14.
The Demons cashed in an SHSU fumbled kickoff and took a 21-14 edge with a 20-yard touchdown from Eppler to Ferguson. Those two NSU scoring drives ate up just six seconds and 32 seconds on the clock.
Eppler finished with 351 yards on 27-of-42 passing with three touchdowns and three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble).
“I think we were complacent just to be in the game in the second half,” Eppler said when asked about the difference between the first and second halves. “We didn’t come out hot, and that one is on me with the interception.
“We have to do our jobs.”
The Bearkats had an answer (21-21) when senior receiver Darion Davis grabbed his third touchdown of the half as redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Brock found SHSU’s career receiving leader on an 11-yard touchdown. The score was set up by a Bourgeois fumbled punt as the Bearkats marched just 16 yards on the scoring drive.
Davis caught touchdowns of 21 and two yards in the first quarter as the Bearkats stormed to a 14-0 lead after three possessions.
He finished with 68 yards on six catches and four touchdowns, adding a two-yard touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter. For the second consecutive season, Davis hauled in four receiving touchdowns against NSU, tying his own NSU opponent record for most receiving scores in a single game.
Davis also crossed the career 3,000-yard receiving mark in the first half, becoming just the fifth Southland Conference player to reach that milestone.
SHSU took the lead, 23-21, when Derick Roberson sacked Eppler for a safety.
But the Demons responded with a defensive score of their own as Bourgeois’ interception return for a touchdown gave NSU a 28-23 halftime lead.
Despite SHSU dominating the second half, the Demons had chances to get close.
Freshman cornerback Shemar Bartholomew intercepted his second pass early in the fourth quarter to keep NSU within two scores, but the Demon offense couldn’t generate enough to engineer another score.
Brock threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns on 24-of-49 passing with three interceptions.
The Bearkats rushed for 189 yards led by Kyran Jackson (152 yards). Jackson also contributed 116 receiving yards on four catches.
The loss is NSU’s 11th straight against a ranked team, but the Demons will get another shot when they head to No. 16/18 Central Arkansas this coming Saturday.