NATCHITOCHES – For the first time in nearly 11 months, the Northwestern State football team will wear its purple jerseys today.
After finishing the 2021 season with consecutive road games and starting the 2022 slate with three straight away from home, the Demons will open Southland Conference play by hosting Lamar in NSU’s first home game since Nov. 6, 2021.
“We’re excited to be home — not only is it the first home game, but we’re starting conference as well,” fifth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “Everybody’s 0-0. It’s a great opportunity for us Saturday afternoon. It’s not tough to explain, but from my past experiences as a player and a coach, those are the reasons I relish (playing at home) so much.
“These young men work so hard throughout the year too, this year, have four opportunities to play at Turpin Stadium. Our support within the community is so huge that we look forward to showcasing who we are in front of them. They’ll be out in full force, and we look forward to it.”
Added senior cornerback William Hooper, who will play his final home opener in an NSU uniform: “Coming home, playing in front of the hometown crowd will bring a special energy to us. That’s something we really need.”
Both Northwestern State (0-3) and Lamar (0-3) are seeking their first wins of the season, and the Demons enter with three weeks of knowledge gained from three entirely different road trips.
The added benefit of today serving as both the home opener and the conference opener for the Demons is not lost on Laird nor his players.
“That’s the message every year because it is a different season in itself,” Laird said of the mentality of the conference opener allowing for a “reset” button of sorts.
“Everything we wanted is still in front of us. Our guys understand that. Not to take away anything from the past three weeks — because we have to learn from that, we have to be better – but as we enter this different season, we understand everyone is 0-0. We’re going to talk this week, like we do every week, about going 1-0. This is the first opportunity for us to do so in the conference.”
While today’s game has a double meaning for the Demons, it serves as a return home in a sense for Lamar, which spent the 2021 season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference before rejoining the Southland Conference in July.
The Demons have won seven of nine meetings with the Cardinals since Lamar reinstated its program in 2011. Northwestern State is 2-1 against the Cardinals in the Laird era.
Lamar grabbed a 31-23 win in the most recent meeting, which came March 27, 2021, in Beaumont, Texas.
“We don’t take any opponent lightly,” Hooper said. “We treat every opponent the same. It would be nice to build off those wins, but every day is a new day.”