To Demons everywhere,
Your love for Northwestern State and your passionate support of NSU football is truly appreciated every day, but especially now. We’ve just finished a very disappointing season, for all of us.
Our standards are much higher. We know you expect more for Demon football. We do also.
Although our record would seem to indicate otherwise, we weren’t outclassed by our Southland Conference rivals. We didn’t win in several close games that could have drastically changed the course of our season.
We lost three conference games by a total of seven points, were tied in the second half of three others, and were within one score in the fourth quarter in our last one at Stephen F. Austin. Only unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Sam Houston had control at halftime, and the only time they’ve trailed all season was against us, 13-7. Central Arkansas, the other Southland team in the FCS playoffs, scored on two broken plays to get a 14-point lead and had to hold us off in the fourth quarter in Conway. We were extremely competitive week after week, but a combination of factors kept us from success.
As head coach, it’s my responsibility to figure out how to win, especially those close ones. That has been more difficult this season than normal.
While the final scores have been deeply frustrating and painful for all, the effort of our team, from everyone involved, has been inspiring. I am very proud of our student-athletes. They have given 100 percent in some trying circumstances. They have lived the fight song lyric, “Northwestern Demons, never yield.”
A lot of them had to step up and play a bunch, when we had planned for this to be a year for our younger ones to get bigger and stronger, and learn the system. But they have bought into our system and done the best they could.
Injuries have been overwhelming, like nothing I’ve seen in nearly 30 years of coaching. Nobody likes hearing about them. Some days there seemed to be more players in the training room, rehabbing an injury, than the ones who were in the meeting rooms before practice. Last week when I heard our trainer, Jason Drury, was coming upstairs to see me, I felt like hiding under the desk so he wouldn’t give me any more bad news on injured players. There were some games when we were down to our last eligible player at a given position.
We used nearly three dozen first-year players this season. Only two were true freshmen. We resisted bringing several others out of their redshirt years as the injury situation grew. Playing them right away was not a wise move for the future of the program. Several of those young men will combine with our 2017 recruiting class and will make an instant impact for the Demons next season.
I want to give you first notice that there will be some changes to our coaching staff. Today I can announce that defensive line coach Jake Landoll has left us to take a position in the private sector in the Kansas City area, where he and his wife have roots. He’s been a great member of our team and I’m sorry to see him leave, but he got a very appealing opportunity and felt he couldn’t pass on it for the good of his family. The defensive linemen gave him an autographed ball at last Friday night’s team meeting and played their guts out for him, again, at Stephen F. Austin.
There will be some other moves that will be announced at the appropriate times. I see these as our opportunity to bring in new thoughts into our program and elevate Demon football to the point where we are competing for championships, beginning next fall.
We are making some schematic changes and will travel to two very successful programs to study their systems and philosophies, with a plan to implement parts of their packages into our system. All schemes have to be built around the skills and talents of the available players in our program. We plan to be more versatile next year, regardless of injuries or other factors.
As always, I am appreciative of the tremendous support we receive from the Demon family. It means a great deal for our players to see you as they take the field in Turpin Stadium and on the road.
We really need your support right now, during this offseason, to turn this in the direction we can go, together. When we won at Louisiana Tech two years ago, we had proud and excited supporters, and it was a lot of fun. We had a really good team that year, a team that was a minute or so away in three conference games of giving us at least one more win. That would have certainly lifted us into the 2014 playoffs.
Despite our record this season, there are a lot of reasons to believe we’re within reach of success next year. Our young men are accomplishing great things off the field, with a cumulative 2.9 team grade point average in the past year, and a projected NCAA Academic Progress Rate score of 978 after a 969 last year. (1,000 is perfect, and the average in Division I football is 959). They make us proud even when they are not wearing their shoulder pads. They will be contributing members of our society when they graduate from NSU.
We will have nearly 60 letter winners back in 2017, including 36 who started at least once for us this fall. Those guys will be wiser for the experiences of this season, bigger and stronger and with tremendous determination to win. They want you to be proud of them and celebrating with them at the final horn.
Because of those young men, the adjustments we are going to make, the great university we represent, and also thanks in a big way to the support of Demons everywhere, I am absolutely confident we will get your program winning games and competing for the Southland Conference championship next season.
Fork ‘em Demons!
Coach Jay Thomas