“It’s going to be a big challenge for us to come back and play with the same intensity that we did this past weekend,” Demons head coach Jay Thomas said. “We have to be more consistent in getting that done playing week in and week out in conference play.”
NSU (3-4, 0-2 Southland) came out of the gate on fire up 16-7 with 8:55 left in the third quarter, but sputtered in the final 24 minutes and surrendered a 30-6 run.
“I was very pleased with our effort in the game,” Thomas said. “The other kids played extremely hard and we were certainly disappointed that we didn’t get the job done. There are still mistakes that we’re making across the board.”
The Demons shot themselves in the foot by with missed field goals and committing 12 penalties for 68 yards. Currently, NSU is the most penalized team in the Southland, but it is something that Thomas wants fixed.
“We’re not helping ourselves,” Thomas said. “Our penalties are something we’ve been trying to get addressed with our guys. We have a lot of new faces and young guys that are still playing and we have to continue to be patient with them as they grow and mature.”
One underclassman that has matured this season is sophomore wide receiver Ed Eagan.
Eagan currently ranks No. 24 punt returns and is coming off of a performance where he caught seven passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
“Ed is certainly a talented guy. He’s still a young player and he makes mistakes at times, but he’s really developing into a quality receiver and big play threat. He has a knack for going up in catching the ball and being very competitive when the ball goes up.”
Sam Houston (5-2, 1-1) will be a tough order for the Demons though.
The Bearkats lost last week to then No. 9-ranked McNeese State 31-23, but have been a force in the Southland Conference under fourth-year head coach Willie Fritz.
SHSU is the defending two-time conference champion and has made it to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) championship game the past two years.
“It’s always a concern [of how the opponent plays after a loss],” Thomas said. “Even if it was the other way around, it doesn’t mater because we know those guys are going to come out and be ready to play.”
The Bearkats rely heavily on their senior running back Timothy Flanders, who leads the Southland with 871 rushing yards.
On defense, Sam Houston only gives up 126.4 rushing yards per game---tops on the conference. Senior Tanner Brock ranks second on the Bearkats with 50 tackles.
“[Sam Houston] is very difficult to defend,” Thomas said. “Defensively, they are physical and fast on all 11 spots. Coach Fritz has done an outstanding job with that program.”
SHSU has beaten NSU in convincing fashion over the past two years, however Fritz sees a change the Demons under Thomas’ leadership.
“Coach Thomas is doing a super job with their program,” Fritz said. “I see a lot of enthusiasm with their ball club on the sidelines. That tells me that he’s providing tremendous leadership.”
The Demons hope they can pull off an upset win, as Thomas focuses on improving and getting things turned around.
“We’re going to remain positive here and continue to work with our guys and get them better,” Thomas said. “I feel like we have it on the right track, but just have to continue to move forward.”
The Demons and Bearkats will square off in Huntsville today at 2 p.m.