NATCHITOCHES — Extra motivation turned Northwestern State into a team on a mission, and the Demons responded with solid play Saturday night against Southern.
The Demons were well aware that last week, Southern linebacker Anthony Balancier said publicly that the Northwestern State program was “horrible.”
The Demons responded with spirited play on the field during a 55-14 rout at Turpin Stadium.
“We had a big chip on our shoulders, because we heard about all the talking going on,” said Northwestern quarterback Zach Adkins, who finished 22 of 34 for 331 yards. “We came out wanting to prove we’re not terrible like (Balancier) said.”
First-year Demons coach Jay Thomas said the comment added fuel to their desire to win.
But it also had a larger meaning.
“No. 1, we wanted our guys to learn how you treat an opponent,” Thomas said. “When you get ready to play a game, you should have respect for your opponent.”
Despite the extra incentive, Northwestern began Saturday’s game as though it wanted to lend Southern a helping hand.
The Demons line gave up two early sacks, and there were four first-quarter penalties — three of which nullified two touchdowns and a 53-yard run.
“We can’t let anything like that get us down,” Adkins said. “We kept fighting and kept executing our plays, and it worked.”
The offense began clicking in the second quarter. Whether it was short scoring drives that began in Southern territory, or a 12-play, 86-yard drive at the start, Northwestern ripped through Southern’s defense all through the second period.
The Demons’ offensive success also kept the defense fired up.
“Our offense played real good,” defensive tackle Lesley Deamer III said. “They kept (converting) third downs and completed a lot of passes. Anytime you can do that and keep the defense off the field, it keeps us fresh.”
In building a 31-7 halftime lead, the Demons put up their highest first-half total against a Division I opponent since taking a 40-6 halftime lead against Texas Southern in 2004.
The outburst came after a tentative start — even after Robert Walker busted a 53-yard run to the SU 10-yard line on its second play from scrimmage. A holding penalty near the line wiped out most of the yardage, and the drive continued from the NSU 41.
Three plays later, Adkins connected with Bryant Mitchell for a 38-yard touchdown. Another holding penalty brought that one back, and five plays later, Northwestern settled for Chris Moore’s 26-yard field goal.
Southern’s Kevin King and Daniel Brown each had sacks on Northwestern’s second possession, which began at the SU 49. The Demons gave the ball up on their only punt of the half, but got the ball back at the Southern 35.
Northwestern’s Rahkeem Mitchell took an end around 20 yards for what looked like the game’s first touchdown, but a holding call ended that. Two plays later, Adkins found Daniel Taylor all alone in the left flat for a 6-yard score, and Northwestern led 10-0 with five minutes left in the first quarter.
Northwestern scored touchdowns on its first three second-quarter possessions, and ended the half at the SU 5.
Southern’s Traé Tiller blocked Moore’s 22-yard field-goal attempt to end the half.
By then, however, the Demons had a 31-7 lead.
They looked far from horrible.
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