The Northwestern State Demons of the FCS ranked LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge this weekend.
Northwestern State, an FCS squad, competes in the Southland Conference and is led by Bradley Dale Peveto, now in his third season at the helm. The Demons won a total of just five games through Peveto's first two seasons, but there is some reason for optimism after last week's 24-23 victory over Delta State in the opener. That win, the 499th in the history of the program, came as the result of the club's second-biggest rally since moving to Division I back in 1977.
"We showed a lot of heart, a lot of character to stay together" said Peveto. "This didn't start in fall camp. This has been a process since 2009 and our strength as a unit held us together tonight against a heck of a Division II team."
Without question, the highest profile game of college football's opening weekend featured then third-ranked Oregon and then fourth-ranked LSU at Dallas Cowboys' Stadium. The showdown was supposed to be close from start to finish, so it was a surprise that the Tigers cruised to a 40-27 victory over the Ducks. The triumph pushed LSU's non-conference regular season winning streak to a national best 34 games. The Tigers are members of the loaded SEC and have had their fair share of off-the-field distractions, but head coach Les Miles clearly had his troops ready to play last weekend.
LSU has won all 10 previous meetings with Northwestern State, but hasn't faced the Demons since 1942.
Last week against Delta State, Northwestern State junior college transfer quarterback Brad Henderson caught fire, completing a school record 13 straight passes to rally the Demons from a 17-point deficit. Henderson replaced starter Paul Harris and led his club to scores on four of the first five possessions after halftime. Delta State was last season's Division II runner-up, so the victory came over a program with an outstanding pedigree.
"We made just enough plays to win," said Peveto. "We made a ton of mistakes that could have cost us. But we kept fighting, we stayed together, we didn't stop believing, and we won the football game. We'll enjoy it and turn the page to LSU (next week's opponent) starting tomorrow."
Defensively, Northwestern State did permit 421 total yards, but a closer look reveals that the unit played fairly well. Delta State was only able to gain 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, and the team permitted only 19-of-43 passes versus the Demons with a pair of interceptions.
Jordan Jefferson was expected to be under center for LSU in the opener versus Oregon, but the quarterback has been suspended indefinitely as he faced battery charges in connection with a bar fight last month. Jarrett Lee stepped in against the Ducks and managed the game effectively, passing for 98 yards and a touchdown while avoiding costly mistakes.
"As you all know, we've had a lot on our minds as a team coming into this game and we just kind of put that to the perimeter," said Lee. "It's not something that we wanted to happen, but you have to put it to the side and move forward."
Spencer Ware and Michael Ford combined to rush for 195 yards and three touchdowns, as the LSU offensive line was completely dominant from start to finish.
Coach Miles couldn't say enough about the play of his defense after the win over Oregon. The Tigers permitted only 335 yards to what is considered to be one of the most explosive offensive teams in the nation. The Ducks managed a mere 95 rushing yards on their 28 attempts and gained only 7.7 yards per pass completion. LSU came up with four takeaways, including three fumble recoveries, and limited Oregon to fewer than 27 minutes of possession time.
"Our defense played a spectacular game," said Miles. "They played with an intensity and a speed to the ball. We challenged them to be ready, and ready is a big deal when you line up against a team that will fast-pace you and try to get your helmet turned and run a play. They were ready. That defense was pretty special today."