NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State's home debut under new head coach Jay Thomas was a smashing success Saturday night, with quarterback Zach Adkins throwing for 331 yards and three scores as the Demons dominated in-state rival Southern 55-14 in front of the sixth-largest crowd, 14,873, in the 36-year history of Turpin Stadium.
NSU scored on eight of its first 10 series, roaring to a 31-0 lead before halftime, and backups played the entire fourth quarter for the Demons, who finished with 30 first downs and 554 total yards.
Senior feature back Rob Walker ran for touchdowns of 26 and 2 yards. Adkins' passing yardage was the 10th-best single-season total in school history and helped the Demons come within six yards of the team single-game record of 368 set in 2008 at Stephen F. Austin. The junior college transfer went 22 for 34 without an interception in his second game and start for NSU.
The victory gave Demons their first 2-0 start to a season since 2007, and made Thomas only the third coach in school history to win his first two games, joining Scott Stoker (2002) and Glenn Gossett (1967).
Northwestern State's 55 points were its most since a 63-12 rout of Division II Southeastern Oklahoma in 2008, and the most against a Division I opponent since a record-smashing 87-27 win over Southeastern Louisiana, which was in its first year back playing football. Going against an established Division I program, it was the biggest output since a 57-17 victory over Gardner-Webb in 2000.
NSU out gained Southern 554-248 and piled up 30 first downs to 16 for the Jaguars (0-2) in the first meeting between the teams since 2002.
"I'm really proud of how we handled the week. Our motto was ‘Win the Week," and we did. Our guys came out on fire and played really good in all phases," said Thomas. "I'm really happy with the way we played.
"Our defense did a good job of keeping them bottled up early in the game, and our offense did a good job of taking advantage of the good field position," he said. "Zach did a nice job of managing the game, our line blocked hard, our running backs ran tough and our receivers made good catches and runs after the catch. Our defense looked like the old Purple Swarm tonight. We were very impressed with Southern's offense coming out of their opener at Houston, but we did a nice job of tackling tonight."
The Demons' 31 points at halftime were their most through two quarters since 2008, when they ran to a 49-12 lead against Southeastern Oklahoma. It was their biggest halftime scoring total against a Division I foe since a 40-6 lead over Texas Southern in the 2004 season.
Adkins tossed three touchdowns in a 15-minute span: a 6-yarder to Daniel Taylor with 5:05 to go in the opening period for a 10-0 lead, then an 8-yarder snagged on a nifty leaping grab by Ed Eagan, 11:03 before halftime, and a 31-yard connection on a crossing pattern to Louis Hollier, who picked up a nice block around the 15 and outran defenders to the corner of the end zone with 5:01 left before the bands performed.
The Adkins-Hollier tally made it 31-0. Southern got on the board with an 80-yard drive to a 10-yard Willie Quinn catch-and-run from Dray Joseph with 1:56 to go, and the Demons nearly answered, but a first-and-goal in the final 20 seconds was in vain after a Chris Moore 22-yard field goal was blocked on the last play of the half. Moore had opened the scoring with a 21-yarder ending a 61-yard, 11-snap series on NSU's opening possession.
He added a 31-yarder late in the third quarter as the Demons scored on their first three chances after halftime. Rumeall Morris had a 3-yard run two minutes after halftime and Walker pushed in from the 2 just three minutes later for a 45-14 advantage.
Southern's other TD came after Morris's score, when Quinn, a running back, raced 98 yards on his first-ever collegiate kickoff return, setting a Turpin Stadium record for the longest kick runback by one yard.