During preseason camp, second-year head coach Brad Laird told his Northwestern State football team to try to block out noise from outside the program.
After an 0-2 start following Saturday’s 33-7 loss to Midwestern State, Laird has the same message for his team.
“We’re 0-2, so we’re hearing a lot of outside noise,” Laird said. “We have to focus internally on us, becoming the football team we can be – that we have shown. It will take each and every one of us putting in hard work throughout the week to be ready for Saturday night.
“It’s that way each week, but more so now. The focus has to be on us and the things we can do to get better. We have to focus on what we can control.”
A day after his team fell in its home opener, Laird said he did not see much difference after watching film of Saturday’s game.
“I saw a team that came in here and beat us in all three phases,” he said. “I got outcoached. We got outplayed. We have to look in the mirror and figure out who we are. The good thing is it’s game two and not game 12. It’s another opportunity to learn.”
The Demons took some steps forward after a nine-day break between the season opener at UT Martin on Aug. 29 and their home debut.
Those primarily came in special teams, which was a point of emphasis after the Week 1 loss in which UT Martin had a punt return score and another long return that set up its go-ahead touchdown.
“We got some things corrected in special teams,” Laird said. “We had nine points, and they had only the one return that went (19) yards, and we added on with the penalty. Even on that one, we had people in position. Our kicks were better. The protections were better. Looking at what we did special teams-wise, there was improvement in that area.”
The Demons scuffled on third-down conversions, converting just 3 of 17 opportunities, keeping the NSU defense on the field for long stretches.
Northwestern State did produce a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive toward the end of the second quarter. Three of the Demons’ four touchdown drives this season have lasted at least 10 plays.
“How many guys did we have make their first catches at UT Martin?” Laird asked rhetorically. “Fast forward, and some of those new guys are making mental mistakes that come with learning how to play in games. They’re guys who haven’t had a lot of reps. We had eight three-and-outs. It’s hard to get into rhythm. We weren’t able to sustain drives offensively, which we weren’t able to get into a lot of things we wanted to do from an offensive standpoint.
“We’ve talked to our guys about only being guaranteed 12 of these opportunities. We have to make sure we do all we can in all three phases to be prepared for Saturday night.”