It’s not quite game week yet but the Northwestern State football team is gradually shifting into game week mode.
After a two-hour workout Tuesday afternoon, coach Jay Thomas said the practice routine is already altered while more of the game plan is being introduced for next Thursday’s opener against two-time defending Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana.
The 6 p.m. contest Sept. 3 in Turpin Stadium will be the first season-opening conference matchup for NSU since a 1974 Gulf South Conference contest against Troy.
The majority of NSU’s practices until Friday are honing up situational scenarios and special teams play, Thomas said.
“Today we did a lot of blitz pickup and defensive blitz work, and we’ve gotten two really good days out of that. We’ve worked first and 10 and the two-minute drill this week, and we’ve seen good competitive battles between offense and defense,” he said.
The Demons are polishing their moves while taking more notice of what the Lions do.
“We’ve started slowly working in some of the game plan stuff,” said Thomas. “A lot has been done along the way. There were things we put in on day one that will carry on into the first game. When we get closer to the end of the week, we’ll get a little heavier into it. We’ll see how our guys are feeling and how their legs are doing to determine our work plan.”
Special teams play is always at a premium in early-season contests. Going against SLU, it’s an even higher priority, he said.
“Today we had a big emphasis on punt protection and kickoff coverage. Southeastern under coach (Ron) Roberts has been one of the best in the country in the kick game, and they have one of the best returners (Xavier Roberson) in the country back. We are trying to get our schemes and techniques down and had a good, solid day doing that.”
Thomas is very pleased with the guidance of second-year special teams coordinator August Mangin, whose units sparkled last season, including leading the nation in punt coverage, allowing only nine yards in returns in 2014. Having senior two-year starters Andy Wickman (punter) and Chris Moore (kicker) on hand is also boosting NSU’s special teams stock.
“Coach Mangin’s done a good job with our kicking game,” said Thomas. “It feels good to have our returning specialists with Wickman and Moore back again, which points toward us being even better in that area.”
The Demons will go through a light workout Wednesday, with the practice plan following the lines of a game-week Thursday session. They have a mock game at 6 Thursday evening in Turpin Stadium to review a wide range of scenarios.