First-half GSU blitz too much for Demons to overcome

SHREVEPORT – Two drives into Saturday’s Shreveport Classic presented by the Caddo Parish Commission, the Northwestern State football team was rolling.

Already up a touchdown, the Demons had the ball inside the Grambling 10-yard line, looking to double its lead before Grambling turned an end-zone interception into an offensive onslaught.

The Tigers scored three plays after that key turnover, starting a run of touchdowns on six straight possessions to end the first half that set the tone for a 47-21 victory at Independence Stadium.

“We had a chance to extend the lead, and when we didn’t, we let it snowball into a bad situation,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “That’s 100 percent on me. I didn’t do a good job getting this team ready to play. It starts with me, and it starts with these coaches preparing these young men during the week. Did not do it, did not continue to coach for four quarters and did not execute.”

Northwestern State (0-2) racked up 137 yards on its first 14 plays before Donald Lee picked off Miles Fallin on first-and-goal from the Grambling 4.

That interception seemed to ignite the Tigers (1-1) and stifle the NSU momentum.

Three plays after Lee’s interception, Maurice Washington broke a 61-yard touchdown run that included him hurdling a Demon defender. Jomard Valsin’s blocked the extra point – one of three such blocks for the Demons on the night – to maintain a one-point NSU lead that stood for the next 5:05 until Washington broke a 25-yard scoring run.

The Tigers continued to pile on the chunk plays – especially the scoring type – throughout the second quarter.

With GSU leading 21-7, quarterback Quaterius Hawkins connected with Lyndon Rash on an 83-yard touchdown pass at the 10:43 mark of the second quarter and followed with scoring tosses of 20 yards to Claude Coleman and 71 yards to JR Waters before halftime.

“Every big play they had, we made a mistake,” said senior safety PJ Herrington, whose fumble recovery in the third quarter marked the Demons’ first takeaway of the season. “They didn’t do anything special. We blew coverages. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”

It was the Demons doing what they wanted on offense, moving downfield nearly unimpeded as a popup shower made its way through the stadium in the first quarter.

Fallin started 6 for 8, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Zach Patterson, who took an wide receiver screen in for his first career score.

“We practiced it all week,” said Patterson, who shared the team lead with six catches. “When we saw the defense, we knew what they were going to do. Once we saw what they were doing, we called the play, and it worked to perfection.”

After the Tigers’ scoring blitz to end the first half, the Demons answered with a touchdown drive out of halftime with Fallin connecting on a 20-yard swing pass to cut the lead to 41-14.

The Demon defense pitched a second-half shutout as Grambling’s lone second-half points came on a 55-yard fumble return touchdown by Joshua Reed – NSU’s second lost fumble and fourth turnover of the game.

“We came out of halftime making plays,” Herrington said. “We tackled. At the beginning of the game, we didn’t tackle. Unfortunately, it was too late. We just have to look forward to the next game.”

For the Demons, that starts when the return to the practice field ahead of next Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup with Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“Everything besides Xs and Os,” Laird said of the needed changes. “I know that doesn’t sound very good when it’s a football game, but there are a lot of things we have to do and take care of business between the white lines. That starts at practice. That’s doing the right thing at all times.”