SFA opponent preview: Northwestern State

SFA opponent preview: Northwestern State

SFA Athletics

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (Press Release) - Stephen F. Austin will close out the 2016 season Saturday, hosting longtime rival Northwestern State at 3 p.m. at Homer Bryce Stadium. The game against the Demons marks the annual Battle for Chief Caddo, with the winner claiming the largest traveling trophy in sports.

History of the Chief
Since 1961, SFA and Northwestern State have staged an annual challenge for Chief Caddo, the largest traveling trophy in all of college sports. The Chief is seven feet, six inches tall and weighs more than 320 pounds and was carved from a 2,000-pound black gum log on the Stephen F. Austin campus following the 1961 football game between the two teams. The statue is named to honor the Caddos -- a Native American tribe indigenous to the area. As legend has it, a Caddo chief and his two sons are responsible for the settling of Nacogdoches and Natchitoches, La. -- home to Northwestern State -- each of which is recognized as the oldest settlement in its respective state. In the 50 Chief games, the Demons hold a 30-19-1 (.610) edge in the series and are currently in possession of the Chief, defeating the Lumberjacks 33-17 in Natchitoches in 2015.

Television Information
Saturday's game against Northwestern State will be streamed live online at ESPN3, available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app on mobile devices. Rob Meyers, the voice of the Lumberjacks, will call the game along with analyst Tyler DePascal on Q107.7 FM, available online at Q1077.com as well as through the Lumberjack Sports Network on the TuneIn app. Live stats will be available at SFAJacks.com, complemented by Twitter updates @SFA_Football.

Five Storylines
• Saturday's game is the 73rd meeting between the two teams with Northwestern State holding a 44-25-3 edge in the all-time series. The 73 meetings makes the rivalry with the Demons the second-longest active rivalry for the Lumberjacks, trailing only the 91 meetings with Piney Woods rival Sam Houston State.

• This will be the 51st Battle for Chief Caddo since the two programs began playing for the traveling trophy in 1961. Northwestern State holds a 30-19-1 edge and is currently in possession of the Chief, but SFA has won the last three Chief Caddo games at Homer Bryce Stadium.

• Saturday's game marks the final home game for 17 seniors, who will be recognized prior to kickoff. The 17 seniors that will be honored are FB Jabralon Allen, DE Jamal Allen, QB Zach Conque, DE Kedrick Harrison, WR Justice Liggins, S Patrick Martin, LB Price Miller, OL Anthony Pullins, CB Tre Rosser, WR De'Quann Ruffin, S Zack Starnes, LB George Stone, QB Hunter Taylor, DT Darrell Vanerson, RB Joshawa West, OL Travis Wiggins and S Germod Williams.

• The Lumberjacks will be looking to secure a winning record at home Saturday, sitting 2-2 on the year at Homer Bryce Stadium. SFA has posted a 31-12 home record since the start of the 2009 season and has boasted a winning home record in 28 of the 42 seasons Homer Bryce Stadium has served as the Lumberjacks' home field, including seven-straight seasons.

• A pair of seniors will have one last chance to firmly establish themselves in the Lumberjack record books. QB Zach Conque ranks among the top-10 in six statistical categories while DE Kedrick Harrison ranks among the all-time leaders in both sacks and tackles for loss for SFA, having one final game to cement their legacies.

Scouting the Demons
2016: 1-9 overall, 0-8 Southland Conference (11th)
Last Three Games: L vs. Sam Houston State (48-16), L at Abilene Christian (25-22), L vs. Nicholls (31-14)
Head Coach: Jay Thomas (Southern Mississippi, 1988). Fourth season at NSU (17-30, .362); 10th season overall (44-63, .411).
Key Offensive Players:
• #9 Brooks Haack (Sr., QB): 93-of-168 (55.4%) for 1,028 yds., 7  TDs, 6 INTs
• #25 De'Mard Llorens (Sr., RB): 121 rushes for 759 yds., 7 TDs
• #19 Ronald Green (So., RB): 80 rushes for 557 yds., 5 TDs
• #1 Bobby Chan-Chan (Jr., WR): 24 catches for 432 yds., 4 TDs
• #11 Tuff McClain (Sr., WR): 23 catches for 343 yds., 1 TD
Key Defensive Players:
• #15 Nick Pierotti (Jr., LB): 77 tackles (41 solo), 2.0 TFL
• #40 Koby Welch (Jr., LB): 56 tackles (27 solo), 3.0 TFL
• #3 Adam Jones (Sr., S): 54 tackles (36 solo), 2.5 TFL
• #1 JeMarcus Marshall (Sr., DE): 40 tackles (21 solo), 4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks
• #46 Shawn Stephens (Sr., LB): 32 tackles (17 solo), 6.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks
Synopsis: Northwestern State enters the weekend 1-9 on the year and 0-8 in Southland Conference play, coming off a 48-16 loss to top-ranked Sam Houston State in Natchitoches. The Demons enter today's game averaging 21.8 points and 359.6 yards per game, rushing for 199.2 ypg while throwing for 160.4 ypg. Northwestern State's rushing attack is led by RB De'Mard Llorens' 759 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, complemented by RB Ronald Green's 580 yards and five touchdowns. QB Brooks Haack has thrown for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns for the Demons with WRs Bobby Chan-Chan and Tuff McClain combining for 47 catches and 774 yards with five touchdowns. Defensively, Northwestern State is giving up 32.5 points and 456.6 yards per game, including 183.2 yards rushing and 273.4 yards passing. The Demons' leading tackler is LB Nick Pierotti, tallying 77 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss with LB Shawn Stephens, DT Zak Krolczyk and DE JeMarcus Marshall combining for 15 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Head Coach Clint Conque's Monday Press Conference Transcript

On the Houston Baptist game: 
"Obviously it was not a very good day down in Houston. We're very disappointed with the outcome and some aspects of that game. Certainly you have to give Houston Baptist some credit - they played more of a complete game then we did. I was pleased in the fourth quarter when we got a couple of stops and generated some offense to keep us in it. We executed an onside kick and scored a touchdown and had a chance there with a little over two minutes to go with another onside kick coming but just couldn't do convert. We didn't play the type of game that you need to play to win in this conference against anybody on the road. We didn't really have an answer for their quarterback run game. He did complete two long passes, but we just didn't have an answer to contain him and he really hurt us with his legs. We had some penalties on defense that hurt us and changed some field positions and extended drives. We had them stopped on third and long a few times, but we just couldn't get off the field. Offensively, again we are lacking in our ability to generate a run game. When your quarterback leads your team in rushing two of the last three weeks, that's probably not what you want. We just couldn't get the push up front consistently to generate the type of run game we wanted. We did finish the game without two starters on the offensive line and those starters were backups at one point. We lost our two leading tacklers in that game, Price Millerand George Stone, to injuries. I thought we showed some fight in the fourth quarter, but just didn't have enough juice early in the game. There is a lot of frustration and disappointment for the season that we're having with the injuries and the outcomes and those kinds of things, but we have to circle up the wagons this week because this is a big game in town. It's senior day. military appreciation day, which is always close to my heart having a young man in the military, and obviously the Battle for Chief Caddo. So that's where we are."

On looking ahead to the postseason: 
"As I do every year, I'll evaluate what we're doing, how we're doing and who we're doing it with. What we're teaching and just all of those things to try to take your program to be better the following year. We have a few of those things from a recruiting standpoint in motion with the commitments. For me personally, this one will sting because this will be the first time in my career I've had back-to-back losing sasons. Even with a win on Saturday, we come up short in that category. So we just need to figure out who are, where we are going and how do we get there. But we're not ready to get there just yet. This week, our focus is on the Demons, who has been a snake-bit football team just like us. They have a big, physical offensive line, two or three quality running backs, some electricity at receiver and a very dynamic scheme defensively. They're averaging six yards per carry running the football, and when they're in position they make plays, they generally make them. They don't look like a team that is searching for their first Division I win, that's for sure. In a rivalry game it doesn't matter what your record is. There's a trophy in the stadium, and it's Chief Caddo. They got us 2015, so he's been back in Natchitoches for the last year, which doesn't sit well with people here. We'll do everything to patch it up and put a plan together to put us in a position to win this game on Saturday and get the Chief back in Nacogdoches."

On teaching the significance of this game: 
"We have a lot of great tradition here at our campus. There's a lot of rivalry games and big games that we play every year, but the Northwestern State game for our program is a very important game regardless of your record. It's something that we need to give ourselves a chance to win. You get that good feeling to see Chief Caddo in your building every day. Our players will fully understand what that means with a win and just gives you some momentum going to into recruiting and offseason. This is a big football game and the outcome means a lot to both cities and both campuses. I brought in (University VP) Dr. Westbrook to share the history of this game - Chief Caddo and the legends and stories behind it to educate our newcomers. This game is about a lot of pride for both teams. It's the largest traveling trophy in all of college football, and it mean a lot to a lot of people on both campuses. We're obviously aware of that."

On the legacies of the seniors: 
"It will be an emotional day – recognizing 17 seniors, 13 of which will play in their final game at SFA. You start looking at some individuals like Kedrick Harrison who's put himself in the record books and has been a consistent player over the three years that I've been here. Zach Conque has got himself in the top five in five statistical categories and top ten in others. Justice Liggins has had a good senior year. You look at Patrick Martin's career - a preseason all-conference player. Anthony Pullins has started nearly forty games in his career here. Joshawa West has done everything we've asked him to do for us, playing a little receiver, running back, returned kicks and special teams. I could go on and on about everyone individually, and a lot of these players were on that playoff team in 2014 and played significant roles. They have made their mark on the field and off. You would like for our record this year to be better for them. One of our goals every year is to send our seniors out a winner and obviously we're disappointed and frustrated with that. But certainly the legacy that they can leave is to finish this the right way and beat Northwestern State on Saturday. Then they can always say that Chief Caddo resided in Nacogdoches after their senior year."