By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal
NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State football team got the fast start it wanted Saturday afternoon against No. 5/7 UIW.
The Demons, however, were unable to sustain that momentum, and once the visiting Cardinals grabbed hold, they never let go.
UIW answered NSU’s opening drive touchdown with an onslaught of big plays and an avalanche of offense in a 66-7 victory that gave the Cardinals a share of the Southland Conference championship.
“Go back and look at the first half – the end of the first quarter, beginning of the second quarter – we had some opportunities,” said fifth-year head coach Brad Laird, whose team finished the season 4-7 overall and 4-2 in Southland play. “We got the fast start we wanted, up 7-0. It’s 14-7 (UIW) and we have a drive where we have a couple of drops and a drop on a fake punt that came in a situation to get the momentum back.
“In games like this, that’s what you have to do. We weren’t able to get the momentum back at that point. That wasn’t the point that changed the game, but it was a big letdown early in the second quarter.”
From there, the Cardinals (10-1, 5-1) piled on the points.
UIW needed just six plays to cover the 45 yards after the failed fake punt to build a 21-7 lead on Lindsey Scott’s 18-yard touchdown run.
Scott engineered a balanced UIW attacked that gobbled up 786 yards total offense — 413 in the air and 373 on the ground. A seventh-year senior, Scott threw for 382 yards and five touchdowns, tying the Turpin Stadium record held by NSU’s Zach Adkins and Sam Houston’s Jeremiah Briscoe.
Running back Marcus Cooper added 254 rushing yards – the third-best performance in stadium history – and a pair of touchdowns.
The Demons’ lone score came on the opening drive of the game when Zachary Clement found senior tight end LC Greenwood for a 1-yard score.
It was Greenwood’s second touchdown catch of the season – both coming at home in the same end zone.
“They came out and scored 66, so with an offense like that out there, you’ve got to respond and we didn’t respond,” said Clement, whose 239-yard passing performance gave him 2,498 for the season – fifth-most in NSU single-season history.
“(Greenwood and I) just hugged before this interview. For him to be able to go out that way means a lot to him, and I know he’s meant a lot to us as a team.”
The Cardinals used a big-play attack to surpass the 51.6 points per game average they brought into Turpin Stadium, scoring five second-half touchdowns – all of which covered at least 39 yards.
Scott and Cooper accounted for two each with the quarterback connecting with Darion Chafin on touchdown passes of 51 and 48 yards in the third quarter and Cooper adding touchdown runs of 67 and 78 yards within the first 15:14 of the second half.
Greenwood wasn’t the only Demon senior to enjoy a special moment on Senior Day.
Defensive lineman Isaiah Longino had the Demons’ lone sack, giving him 19.5 career sacks and putting him alone in fourth place on NSU’s career list.
“I’m glad I can say my name is going to be here for a very long time,” said Longino, who along with quarterback Kaleb Fletcher and cornerback Trey Williams spent six seasons in the Demon program. “Coach (Weston Glaser) gave me the one-on-one with the tackle. I got in a wide nine, made a few moves and our DBs did a great job of covering backside. He pumped the ball, the first read wasn’t there and when he hesitated, I was there.”
Despite the loss, Northwestern produced its first winning record in Southland Conference play since 2008 and its best conference winning percentage since the 2004 Southland Conference championship season.
“I’m proud of what this team has done,” Laird said. “A lot of people talk about Week 3, but I go back to Week 4 (the conference opener). We’re staring at a situation, about to go down 17-0, to Lamar. What our football team has done from that point moving forward, I couldn’t be more proud. To right the ship, to be able to overcome adversity and play for a championship, it starts with the seniors who played their last game here.”
Contact Jason at email@example.com