NATCHITOCHES, LA. (KALB) - In its second and final preseason intrasquad game Saturday morning, the Northwestern State football team displayed playmaking ability in all three phases, a dozen days away from the Demons’ season debut at Texas A&M.
Stadford Anderson (13) finds running room during Saturday's scrimmage.
Four quarterbacks went 34-55 for 334 yards and two touchdowns, with 14 players making receptions. Nine ball-carriers combined for 107 yards on the ground and a score.
The Demons’ Purple Swarm defense snatched two turnovers, blocked a kick and forced a safety while making seven tackles for loss and four sacks.
Sophomore Austyn Fendrick booted field goals of 39, 46 and 37 yards, the latter on the game’s final play to cap a game-winning eight-play, 66-yard drive led by senior quarterback Clay Holgorsen, who was the top passer (14-21, 113 yards).
“What a way to end the day,” said first-year head coach Brad Laird, “in a two-minute situation, 18 seconds left, no timeouts, and we had to work the ball into the center of the field to set up the kicker to hit a field goal of almost 40 yards. It was a great job of execution on offense and special teams.”
NSU’s defense collected a safety by senior cornerback Rashuan Croney, a blocked extra point by senior defensive end Zak Krolczyk, Nic Forde’s interception and a fumble recovery by William Hooper. Senior end Obinna Iheoma notched two sacks while redshirt freshman linebacker Landon King led with two tackles for lost yards.
“We’ll see (on film) improvement in a lot of different areas, in all three phases,” said Laird after the Demons ran 99 plays from scrimmage in the 1:45-long competition in Turpin Stadium. “We faced situations today we haven’t hit in live competition, scenarios we needed to cover.
“Early on you saw a lot of energy defensively in the move the ball segment. You see positives and negatives, and I saw the offense make some plays in the middle of the scrimmage, the defense do well in the overtime segment, and the offense coming back in the two-minute period and kicking the field goal to win.”
After being torched for 468 passing yards in the first intrasquad game last Saturday, the Purple Swarm flexed its muscle early. Iheoma smothered Holgorsen for a 12-yard sack on the second snap, and Forde’s interception of junior Shelton Eppler (9-16-1, 78 yards) ended the second series.
“We’ve been preaching becoming more consistent every day and we showed a lot of that today: a lot of guys flying to the ball, nobody giving up on any plays, and we made more plays as a result,” said Forde, a junior safety. “Throughout camp, the schemes are becoming second nature to us. We all seem to be flowing on the same page and that leads to plays being made.
“We’ve taken tremendous strides, offense and defense, and you can feel it in the energy on the field.”
The offense broke through on its fourth try with a seven-play, 65-yard drive led by Eppler, starting with explosive runs of 17 and 15 yards by junior Jared West and a 25-yarder from sophomore Stadford Anderson. He capped the march on a 2-yard plunge, but Krolczyk smothered the extra point.
It took five more series for the offense to score, when true freshman Aaron Howell (2-3, 40 yards) connected twice with redshirt freshman McKane Kinchen for 26 and 14 yards in three plays beginning at the defense’s 40.
Sophomore Kaleb Fletcher (9-15, 103 yards), aided by a block from freshman running back Trevor Morgan, evaded a defender and hit Kendrick Price on a 20-yard TD two possessions later. Fendrick’s field goals were the only scoring afterward.
“Defense came out hot today,” said Holgorsen. “There were a couple things that the offense busted at first, but we turned it around, which was really good to see, our guys fighting back and making plays.”
Eppler noted the impact that new defensive coordinator Mike Lucas is making with a defense he ran before at NSU, in 2014, when his one prior season with the Demons produced 30 turnovers.
“We’ve made great strides there, buying into what Coach Lucas is preaching. They’re flying to the ball, trying to get turnovers and get it into our hands so we can put points on the board,” said Eppler. “It’s an amazing feeling to be on the offensive side and see that.”
Junior linebacker Quindarrius Whitley led with four tackles, including one for loss, and broke up a pass. Sophomore safety Hayden Bourgeois, sophomore linebacker Isaiah Longino and junior safety Ryan Reed each made 3.5 tackles.
Senior Marquisian Chapman was the top receiver with eight grabs for 71 yards. Price had 72 yards on three catches, including a 52-yarder from Eppler. Junior Quan Shorts snatched five passes for 33 yards.
The Demons will resume practice Monday afternoon on the first day of classes at NSU. The team will go through a mock game Wednesday evening, then focus on implementing the game plan for the Aggies.