“It was perfect,” he said, after the scripted hour-long walk-through in shorts, jerseys and helmets. “We scored 50, and shut them out. That’s the way it goes when you follow your own script.”
Nearly every conceivable situation was included in the simulated game, including onside kicks, Hail Mary passes, safeties, and Thomas’s favorite offensive scheme, the “Victory Formation” on the last snap. The Demons went 11-on-air, not even putting a scout team on the other side of the ball all evening.
“It was really good for our players, our team. It was a good mental day, and to be honest, we weren’t letter perfect,” said Thomas. “The reason you do this is to eliminate mistakes, and we had some of those tonight, on field goal and kickoff alignment. Plenty of time to get that fixed.”
While NSU has been looking at some elements of Missouri State schemes since Monday, total immersion began Thursday morning in meetings, said Thomas. That will continue Friday as the team gets a day off from practice but will have a day filled with position meetings and film work.
“We’ve started game prep, taking a look at our opponent, and it will be hot and heavy, total game focus, come Saturday morning,” he said. “It’s all about getting the kids ready to play here next Thursday evening.”
With temperatures forecast to soar into triple digits in the coming days, the Demons will practice at 8 a.m. today, 7 p.m. Aug. 24, 8:45 p.m. Aug. 25 on the first day of classes at NSU, then in their regular 3:30 slot Aug. 26-27.
“Monday’s a long academic day. It’s our usual day off and players have classes all day. Even starting that late, we’ll be done in time to watch the 10 p.m. news,” he said. “We’ll also beat the heat. The other option was 4:45 a.m., and that was never really on the table for discussion.”
Thursday’s mock game came after a heavy thunderstorm that delayed the start by 20 minutes, but cooled things off considerably. The mood was relaxed as the stadium sound system was put to use.
“I picked the music,” said Thomas, grinning broadly, “some Funkadelic, that sort of good stuff from my high school and college days. The players were saying, ‘my dad, my grandpa, they listen to this.’ But we needed some clutter, some noise to simulate the racket in here on game night.”
The Demons moved briskly through the walk-through as the possibility of another storm cell stepped up the pace and provided an unlikely game MVP, said Thomas.
“Coach Thomas Grossman, our video graduate assistant, gets the game ball. He got the most work of anybody, because he spotted the ball on every play, end to end. Nobody else was out there every snap.”