Demons focus on themselves in tonight’s visit to Southern Miss

IN PURSUIT: Dez Williams chases down Montana’s Lucas Johnson during Northwestern State’s Sept. 3 season opener. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)


HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Both Northwestern State and Southern Miss enter tonight’s non-conference football game with 0-2 records.

Those, according to fifth-year Demon coach Brad Laird, are not full-scale indicators of the visiting Demons and homestanding Eagles, who tee it up at M.M. Roberts Stadium at 6:02 p.m.

“Records can be deceiving, and I believe they are in both cases,” Laird said. “They played a four-overtime game against a good Liberty team at home, and then they go play at (nationally-ranked) Miami and they’re up 7-3 in the second quarter. What you see on film does not look like an 0-2 football team. More so again it’s on us to get prepared and be consistent doing our job.”

While Southern Miss plays at home for the second time in three weeks, the Demons are playing their third straight game away from Turpin Stadium.

Among the three trips for Northwestern State in September, none has looked like any of the others from a travel and operations standpoint.

“We’ve had one where we’ve flown and left two days before the game,” Laird said. “Last week, it was a one-hour bus ride, and we left the day of the game. This one, we’ll leave the day before the game, so yes, they’ve all been road games, but all three have been different.”

Although each trip has been different, there has been a commonality to them.

“I’ve always talked about this, it gives you an opportunity to be together – to be together on the bus, to be together at the hotel,” Laird said. “This is a long season. It allows us to continue to work on the team chemistry.”

Nearly to a man the Demons echoed their head coach’s thoughts in terms of chemistry.

“We’ve got to come together,” center Joey Milburn said. “The past couple of weeks have been tough, but we’re working on it. Coach Laird is doing a good job bringing us together along with (offensive coordinator/offensive line) coach (Beau) Blair. We’ll be ready.”

Milburn, an Alcorn transfer, is one of 10 Demons who have ties to Mississippi. That group includes eight Mississippi natives and eight Mississippi junior college products, which should give a slightly more purple tint to the Roberts Stadium stands.

That said, the Demons say they understand the business at hand, appreciating the additional support on the road from friends and family while focusing on adding to NSU’s 17 all-time wins against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Additionally, there are at least a couple of Demons with unfinished business to attend to in the hub of southeast Mississippi.

Milburn faced Southern Miss while at Alcorn, playing on special teams in Southern Miss’ 38-10 victory Aug. 31, 2019.

Defensive tackle Ray Gibson, a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi, has his own memories of Hattiesburg, which is located 90 minutes to two hours away from his hometown – “depending on who’s driving.”

Although Gibson’s memories of Hattiesburg are much further removed than Milburn, he has a similar drive to wash that taste out of his mouth tonight.

“I played in Hattiesburg in little league, and I lose the championship,” Gibson said. “Not good memories. It’s most definitely (time to change that).”

Saturday’s game will air on ESPN3 with free streaming audio available on and on the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free for Apple and Android devices.