But Demons coach Jay Thomas doesn't want his team to change its identity.
He wants NSU to live up to it as they prepare to host Central Arkansas Saturday night at 7 p.m. in an ESPN3 game at Turpin Stadium.
After helping his daughters get ready for a neighborhood Halloween block party Sunday evening, Thomas had no hesitation outlining what persona he wants to see this week heading into kickoff against UCA (5-3 overall, 2-1 Southland Conference).
"I think we ought to dress up as Demons. It'll be a scary Demon. When I look in that helmet, there ought to be a focus and an intent in their eyes like I've never seen before," said Thomas. "It's got to be that way for four quarters, and we haven't gotten there yet. It's been close, and it was Saturday, but we need a little more."
Northwestern had the upper hand through much of the first half Saturday afternoon at No. 7 Sam Houston State, but for the second straight week surrendered a long kickoff return that helped swing the game the other way.
NSU rolled up 255 yards in the first two quarters but bogged down nearing the Bearkats' goalline and had two field goal tries deflected.
"We had them spinning, working at halftime," said Thomas. "The three coaches who had been here (SHSU offensive coordinator Doug Ruse, defensive coordinator Mike Collins and safeties coach Ben Beasley) all said to me after the game that we had them on their heels in a lot of ways.
"They have a very good football team, and when you make mistakes they make you pay. I'm proud of our effort and a lot of our execution," he said, "but our busts cost us even more than normal against a team that pounced every time we opened the door."
On the 93-yard kickoff return by Sam Houston's Keshawn Hill that set up the go-ahead seven-yard touchdown for a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter, the Demons' two inside coverage men both dipped outside their lanes, opening a gap straight up the middle of the field.
After a week spent focusing on field goal accuracy by kicker Chris Moore, who made 18-of-20 in a midweek drill after missing 7-of-11 in the past three games, it was the blocking that went awry and cost NSU six points at Sam Houston (in an eventual 44-10 defeat).
That's why Thomas had the Demons on the field in street clothes immediately after their 6 p.m. team meeting and before position meetings, with two protection units going through their paces as mosquitos nibbled away.
"It's disappointing to put all this work into it and still have things we need fixed," said Thomas. "There's a group who does it right consistently, a middle group who are trying to be consistent, and the third group who haven't gotten it right. We have a good nucleus with the first group Monday through Saturday, and what we need is that middle group to get better than hit-and-miss, move forward so we can concentrate on the last group. Then we get this going.
"It's really hard to believe we're down to four games. We've got three at home. How this team will be remembered comes down to November. We're awfully close to being a good football team," he said. "When everybody's sitting around on Thanksgiving eating their turkey and pumpkin pie, Demon fans will be remembering what we did in November, and we want them to feel good about it."