NSU heads to Huntsville to battle ninth-ranked Sam Houston State Saturday

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas – For all of Sam Houston State’s remarkable success this decade, including four Southland Conference titles and two national finals appearances, the 2017 football team looks like the best one of the bunch, says Northwestern State coach Jay Thomas.

“I’ve been in this conference for 21 years, and this is one of the five best teams I’ve seen in that time,” he said. “They’re talented in every phase.”

The Demons get a first-hand look Saturday afternoon, visiting ninth-ranked Sam Houston for a 3:45 meeting at Bowers Stadium. NSU (1-4 overall, 1-2 in the Southland) squares off against a Bearkats (4-1, 2-1) team that was ranked in the top five nationally until getting upset on the road two weeks ago, 41-30, by Central Arkansas, which has now moved up to No. 6 in the FCS Top 25 polls.

Saturday will be the Bearkats’ first homefield appearance in three weeks, since a 66-17 blowout over Nicholls. The Demons fell 14-10 at Nicholls last Saturday, giving up the winning touchdown with 3:54 left.
The Bearkats rebounded from their only loss last Saturday, beating their arch-rival, Stephen F. Austin, 27-16 in Houston.

“The stable is full at Sam Houston. They’ve got not only some of the best players in our conference, but some of the best guys in the country. Offense, defense, special teams, there’s no weaknesses,” said Thomas. “It’s a big, big challenge but it’s one we welcome.

“It’s going to take everything we’ve got. We don’t have to play a perfect game, but we have to give our best, which I know we will, and do what we’re capable of doing, and we haven’t gotten there yet, although we’re getting closer. You’ve got to be able to move the ball, you’ve got to disrupt their offense, make some plays in the kicking game,” he said.

The game will be televised on Eleven Sports Network, which is carried by Suddenlink cable systems and also available on DirecTV (channel 623) and through the Southland.org app and the Southland Digital Network at southland.org/live.

The Demon Sports Network radio coverage begins with a 3:15 pregame show on flagship station 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches and affiliates in Shreveport (News Radio 710 KEEL), Alexandria (105.5 KBUCK) and Many-Leesville (103.1 KWLA FM).

Sam Houston State features two returning All-Americans, quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and defensive lineman P.J. Hall. Briscoe won the 2016 Walter Payton Trophy as the top performer in the FCS.

The Demons had no players on the 2017 preseason All-Southland Conference team selected by the league coaches.

NSU junior cornerback Ike Warren had an interception at Nicholls that set up a go-ahead third-quarter field goal. It was his fifth pickoff in the last seven games.

The Demons’ Purple Swarm defense had its best outing since 2015 in terms of yardage allowed, holding Nicholls to 326 total yards. The 14-point yield was the lowest for NSU in 23 Southland contests dating back to 2014.

The Demons’ last win over a ranked team came in 2014 when NSU beat Sam Houston State 31-27 at home.

They’ll be back in Turpin Stadium for the first time this month next Saturday evening for the homecoming game against UCA at 6 p.m.

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