The annual Homecoming game brings with it a different energy for the Northwestern State football team and a tremendous opportunity for it.
The Demons, however, know their approach against No. 9 Southeastern at 3 p.m. Saturday inside Turpin Stadium must be the same as it is every week.
“We have to bring our ‘A’ game,” linebacker Race Moser said.
Saturday’s game can be seen on ESPN+ and can be heard on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 94.9 FM The River in Natchitoches. Free streaming audio is available at www.NSUDemons.com or through the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.
The Louisiana Office of Tourism will give away several items to fans and will also host a photo booth for Demon fans to take pictures throughout the game.
As the Demons (1-5, 1-2) prepare for the first of two Southland Conference meetings this season with the high-flying, conference co-leading Lions (5-1, 3-0), they do so with the backdrop of their fourth home game in five outings behind them.
They will do so on a day where two-time All-American offensive lineman Marcus Spears will have his No. 76 become the sixth retired number in school history.
NSU also will continue to search for an elusive fast start. After performing well offensively in the opening half of the first two games of the season, the Demons have been more of a second-half team in the ensuing four games.
Of the Demons’ 71 points in that four-game stretch, 49 have come in the final two quarters of those contests.
“It’s been more about us finding our rhythm (in the second half),” said wide receiver Robbie Williams III, who hauled in his first career touchdown at Houston Baptist on Oct. 9 and added a career-long 57-yard grab against McNeese on Oct. 16.
As the Northwestern State offense searches for consistent production, the Purple Swarm defense seems to have found it.
NSU leads the Southland Conference in passing yards allowed, surrendering 216.5 yards per game. Overall, the Demons stand third in the league in total defense, allowing 407.8 yards per game.
A return to fundamentals has spurred the improved performance.
“You’ve seen a lot of consistency,” fourth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “Look at the McNeese game, you don’t see a lot of missed tackles. It was a clean game. They executed the game plan. McNeese came in with a lot of RPOs and wanted to run the football. If you take out the fake punt, they averaged 2.4 yards per rush. Our guys made the plays in the open field.”
Conversely, Southeastern brings the Southland’s No. 1 offense in scoring (50.7 points per game, No. 2 nationally), passing (404.7 yards per game, No. 3 nationally) and total offense (569.5 ypg, No. 2 nationally).
Ranked ninth nationally, Southeastern is the third top-10 team to visit Turpin Stadium since March, joining then-No. 7 Nicholls (March 6) and then-No. 5 Sam Houston (April 1)
The Lions are one of three teams on the Demons’ schedule that have been ranked at some point this fall, joining current No. 13 UT Martin and No. 16 Incarnate Word. Southeastern’s standing, coupled with the energy of Homecoming week, have Laird excited
“You look at the opportunity we have,” Laird said. “So many different people get the opportunity to come back for Homecoming. Because of how busy they are, this is the one weekend they point to. You get a top-10 team coming into Turpin Stadium, so you know the caliber of football team we’re going to play, and it gives us a chance to see the type of football team we know we can be.”